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Sharp Rise in Uninsured Middle-Income Americans

Many with chronic illnesses skip medications because they can't afford them

WEDNESDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Over 40 percent of moderate-income to middle-income Americans, making $20,000 to $40,000 per year, spent at least part of the past year without health insurance, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund, titled "Gaps in Health Insurance: An All-American Problem." This represents a dramatic increase from 2001, when levels were at 28 percent.

The report is based on results from The Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from August 2005 to January 2006, in which a random and nationally representative sample of 4,350 adults participated in a 25-minute phone interview.

The study found that of about 48 million working-age Americans who were without health insurance during the year, 67 percent were in families with at least one person working full-time. In addition, around 20 percent of adults, including those with and without insurance, were paying off medical debts. Nearly 60 percent of the uninsured with chronic illnesses skipped medications because of financial difficulties, often ending up in the emergency room as a result.

"The jump in uninsured among those with modest incomes is alarming, particularly at a time when our economy has been improving," said Commonwealth Fund President and study co-author Karen Davis. "If we don't act soon to expand coverage to the uninsured, the health of the U.S. population, the productivity of our workforce, and our economy are at risk."

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