Chronically Ill and Uninsured

11.4 million working adults who suffer from at least one chronic illness were also uninsured from 1999-2004.

The results of a study published in the August 5, 2008 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine indicate that 11.4 million working adults who suffer from at least one chronic illness were also uninsured from 1999-2004. The sub-population was also less likely to have frequented a regular healthcare practice or to have seen a doctor, and they were more likely to have visited the emergency room for care.

The study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey of 12,486 men and women age 18-64 years. The national representation found that 16.1% of people with heart disease, 15.5% of people with high blood pressure, and 16.6% of diabetics were also uninsured.

The chronically ill and uninsured were more likely to not have had a doctor’s visit in the last twelve months compared to those chronically ill patients with insurance (22.6% vs. 16.2%, respectively). The former group also reported not having a regular healthcare practice from which to receive care (22.6% vs. 6.2%), and they also more frequently identified the emergency room as their standard site for care (7.1% vs. 1.1%.) After adjusting for age, gender, race, and ethnicity, the authors found that “the chronically ill uninsured patients were four to six times more likely than sick patients with insurance to have these access problems.”

This study shows a dangerous disparity in healthcare access that needs to be solved. The presidential election has shed light on the disturbing number of uninsured Americans, and recent health IT debate in Congress has shown relative progress toward improving healthcare’s cost and structure. However, the issues faced by millions of people with chronic illnesses, especially those without health insurance, need to be specifically addressed. Got a solution? Post a comment below to tell us about it!