Obamacare — why having everyone insured matters

Everyone is so upset about Obamacare, and being required to have health insurance.  How many people actually do not have health insurance?  And what difference will it make, forcing them to have health insurance anyway?  I have health insurance myself, but I don’t see why I should care about other people having it.

Independent Yankee

Dear Independent Yankee,

In 2011, approximately 48 million people under age 65 had no health insurance. This translates to about 18 percent of the people under age 65. (The vast majority of Americans over age 65 have Medicare, though almost 700,000 of the elderly also had no insurance.  Not everyone qualifies for Medicare.)

Under the Affordable Care Act (health reform), the percentage of people uninsured should go down by more than half. The difference it will make to the people who get health insurance could be significant.  Some uninsured people have put off getting care, because they can’t afford it.  Ninety percent of the uninsured are in households earning less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Limit.  Affording even simple medical care is difficult for these people.  For others, having health insurance won’t change much: even with an insurance card, they won’t get medical care.

The real issue is when uninsured people get a major illness and cannot pay their medical bills.  Their costs are ultimately paid by everyone else who either has insurance or pays for their care.

With more people insured, doctors and hospitals will be giving away their services less often.  This will help their bottom lines, and could have an effect on what you pay for your care or for your insurance.

As separate as you might like to think you are from your neighbor, when it comes to medical care, his bills do affect you.  The same way his leaves can blow over into your yard, if he doesn’t rake them – his medical bills will affect you if he does not pay them.

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Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.