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Rate of Underinsured Adults Climbing in United States

Number of underinsured 19- to 64-year-olds rose 60 percent since 2003

FRIDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- The number of underinsured adults in the United States climbed steeply between 2003 and 2007, with the risks of being underinsured often affecting those with higher incomes, according to a report published online June 10 in Health Affairs.

Cathy Schoen, of the Commonwealth Fund in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from 2,616 adults participating in a 2007 Commonwealth Fund survey. The authors defined underinsurance by several indicators of exposure to costs compared with income.

In 2007, 25 million insured adults aged 19 to 64 were underinsured, a 60 percent rise from 2003. This increase was most rapid in individuals with incomes at 200 percent of poverty or more, with rates nearly tripling in this group. The underinsured were more likely to leave prescriptions unfilled, skip follow-up care and delay preventive screening than those with insurance who weren't underinsured.

"This study captures the result of two distinct trends since the turn of the century: declining income growth among low- and moderate-income families, and health care premium and cost growth that continues to exceed economic growth," the authors write. "The coverage erosion for adults with incomes of 200-299 percent of poverty is now putting middle -- as well as low-income families -- at risk. Designs that reduce cost sharing for those with low and moderate incomes and for high-value effective care will be necessary if the goal is care and improved outcomes -- not just coverage."

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