State of the Industry 2011: The uninsured

The bigger obstacle to overcome will be the general lack of understanding of the healthcare system

Whatever the decrease in the number of uninsured over the next decade, the bigger obstacle to overcome will undoubtedly be the general lack of understanding of the healthcare system, says Michael Rashid, president and CEO of the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies.

"Many people will, unfortunately, reach a decision not to participate in any of the coverage options available to them simply because they won't be aware they're eligible, or they won't understand the many options available to them," Rashid says.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the number of uninsured will drop from 52 million people today to about 23 million in 2019. Of those still uninsured near the end of the decade, Rashid says, as many as one-third will be undocumented immigrants specifically excluded from obtaining insurance through Medicaid. They will not be eligible to enroll in the health benefit exchanges created by reform legislation either.

The CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have estimated that should the new federal mandate for most U.S. residents to obtain health insurance beginning in 2014 be repealed, the number of uninsured would be 39 million in 2019, rather than 23 million.

The extra 16 million would comprise 4 million to 5 million fewer individuals with employer-sponsored coverage, about 5 million fewer with coverage obtained in the individual market, and about 6 million to 7 million fewer people with Medicaid or CHIP coverage, say the CBO and JCT.