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MARCH 5, 2003
11:36 AM
CONTACT:  American Public Health Association
(202) 777-2501

American Public Health Association Joins Call to Cover Uninsured;
Prevalence of Uninsured More Widespread Than Previously Thought

WASHINGTON - March 5 - Findings released today at the launch of Cover the Uninsured Week indicate that an estimated 75 million people lacked health insurance at some point during the past two years. The study suggests that being uninsured is far more common than previously thought, affecting roughly one in four Americans.

"The findings are shocking and show just how deeply lack of access to health care touches all Americans," said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), a national sponsor of Cover the Uninsured Week, which will be held March 10-16, 2003. "The health and economic toll of this epidemic of the uninsured is staggering for the individual, the family and the community."

People without health insurance don't get routine preventive health services, receive too little medical care too late, are sicker and die sooner, and receive poorer care when they are hospitalized. Also, when seeking care, they are often sicker and therefore more expensive to treat, and they frequently turn to the nearest hospital emergency room, which is an expensive and inefficient way to get care.

Furthermore, the primary providers of care to the uninsured, such as public hospitals, teaching hospitals, academic health centers and non-profit community hospitals, incur heavy losses from high rates of uncompensated care. In turn, these providers are forced to cut back on their services to all patients or even close their facilities.

"The widespread lack of access to care is one of the major causes of racial and ethnic health disparities," said Jay Glasser, PhD, MS, president of APHA and chair of APHA's Universal Health Care Task Force. "Lack of health insurance is a serious financial barrier for many minority families contributing to lower health status."

The current economic downturn, combined with double-digit inflation of health care costs, make health insurance increasingly unaffordable. As a result, the number of uninsured Americans is expected to rise.

To address the growing crisis of the uninsured, APHA issued 14 points on universal health care, available at Included among these points is a call for the following:

-- Universal coverage for everyone in the United States with comprehensive benefits, affordable prices and quality services;

-- Organization and administration of health care through publicly accountable mechanisms to assure maximum responsiveness to public needs, with a major role for federal, state and local government health agencies; and

-- Attention in the organization, staffing, delivery and payment of care to the needs of all populations, including those confronting geographic, physical, cultural, language and other non-financial barriers to service.


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