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Business, Health & Wellness

Uninsured and Underinsured Missouri

About one of every eight Missourians lacked health insurance in 2007 and 2008. For the same period, the percentage of Missourians with employer-provided coverage was 64.4%, down from 72.5% in 2000-2001. As opposed to talk show and Internet chatter and hearsay, the numbers are from the Census Bureau.

Another report from the Department of Health and Human Services finds that the number of uninsured Missourians increased to some 739,000 in 2008, up 41% from about 524,000 in 2001.  Troubling specifics:  nonelderly adults without insurance in Missouri increased to 17.5% from 13.5% and Missouri workers without insurance increased to 15.8% from 12.6%.

Also using Census material, the Missouri Budget Project notes that the vast majority of uninsured Missourians (72%) are in a family with at least one full-time worker.  It's not hard to connect these numbers with the fact that family premium costs in Missouri have increased by 92% in just the last decade.  In 2006, the average family premium in Missouri was more than $11,000, about 9% of a middle-income family's income and out of reach for many lower-income families.  And those small businesses that are still able to provide employee health benefits are likely to see their costs more than double over the next ten years.

This pressing social problem is greatly compounded by the comparatively forgotten underinsured.  An estimated 25 million Americans are underinsured.  High deductible plans and exclusions of pre-existing conditions render this segment of the population particularly vulnerable, with coverage that costs too much and provides too little.  This is critical in a state such as Missouri that has a significantly large rural population; 33% of farmers and ranchers are undisputably underinsured and rural residents in general are twice as likely to be underinsured as urban residents.

Having narrowed the health-care focus to Missouri this week, next week we'll bring the problem even closer to home. 

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