August 18th, 2009
10:31 AM ET

Debunking the myths: Health insurance – who has it and who doesn't?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/17/health.care/art.obama.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama at a town hall meeting earlier this week pushing his health care reform plan."]

Mishan Afsari

Are you confused about the health care debate? Do you want the facts without political interest groups and television advertisements blurring the picture? This explainer may help clear the confusion and debunk the myths.

QUESTION: Who has health care insurance?

85% of Americans have health insurance – that’s 5 out of every 6 people.

Where do the insured people get their insurance?
67% get it from a private plan vs. 28% get it from a government plan

For those covered by a government plan, what plans do they use?
-14% use Medicare
-13% use Medicaid
-4% are covered by the military

For those with private plans, who provides the plan?
59% get it from their employer vs. 8% purchase insurance directly on their own

63% of all firms offer insurance – and what kinds of companies are they?
-99% of large firms (200+ workers)
-62% of small firms (3-199 workers)

-68% of higher wage firms
-40% of lower wage firms

-99% of firms with union workers
-60% of firms with no union workers

QUESTION: Who does NOT have health care insurance and why?

46 million people in the U.S. are uninsured – that’s one out of every six people.

Who are the uninsured?

– They are U.S. citizens… 79% of uninsured residents are native or naturalized U.S. citizens.

– They are young… over one in four people ages 18 to 34 is uninsured…

– They are working… most uninsured families have at least one full-time worker, and most work in blue-collar jobs (69% of uninsured families have one or more full-time workers, and 82% of uninsured workers have blue-collar jobs)

– They have a wide range of incomes – they are not just the poor… almost two thirds of all uninsured people earn more than $21,203 a year…

– They are predominantly Hispanic, American Indian, and African American (34% of Hispanics, 30% of American Indians, and 21% of Blacks are uninsured compared to 12% of Whites.)

– They tend to be from the southern and western regions of the country…

Why are people uninsured?

-#1 reason: MONEY = 53% cannot afford insurance
-#2 reason: WORK = 27% lost or changed a job
-#3 reason: PROVIDER = 14% were not offered it by employer or were denied by insurance company

US Census Bureau
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Editor's Note: Mishan Afsari graduated from from medical school and spent three years in residency before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. She has worked in film production and is now completing an internship in CNN's Washington, D.C. bureau.

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Ellen

    I think it's incredible that Obama can stand up and say "we need to stop expecting something for nothing" and in the next breathe comment on how he wants to provide health care to 46 million uninsured for little/no cost to them. How about the comment he made that he "will not sign a bill that increases the federal deficit?" Is it not ironic that the debt it took this country 200 years to incur has DOUBLED in the 200 days he has been in the presidency?

    Pharmaceutical companies pour millions of dollars into making drugs, they shouldn't have to give their product away. This is called capitalism.

    Wake up folks. Stop expecting the masses to take care of you, and learn to be responsible and self-sufficient. It is not my job to pay for your medical expenses, just like it's not your job to pay for mine.

    August 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  2. Awax

    May I suggest to all the indoctrinated morons: see what other countries are doing to take care of their citizens... Just shove your uber-patriotism in the back pocket and observe – we are number 30+ in the public health care (see CIA Factbook and UN reports for the last three years). If that doesn't suggest anything then I don't know what would. We have almost 1% more newborn mortalities than our neighbor Canada, which all of you uber-patriots like to criticize. Not to mention that our life expectancy is pretty close to the one of the banana republics – and yet we still take more pride in verbal biggotry than in protecting outr own people. SHAME

    August 19, 2009 at 2:16 am |
  3. Lynn

    One question I have not heard addressed: If heath care reform is not achieved, what will happen to all the uninsured people that are now using ER's for primary care? The cost of care of the uninsured is now being covered by insured patients, the states and the hospitals. Everyone agrees that access to health care is right of all citizens but the opponents to health care reform do not appear to address what will happen to the uninsured if there is no change in our current system.

    August 18, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  4. Mark

    If the public option is not included in the final healthcare bill that eventually gets voted on, I think it would be a big mistake for the Congressional Democrats to compromise and just pass anything so they can say they “got healthcare done.” If that happens, it will be a hollow “victory” and a betrayal of the American people.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where healthcare in America is headed. I thought we had already reached that shore with the huge premiums, jumbo deductibles and 20% co-pays, which has resulted in a million Americans per year declaring bankruptcy. But like rats clinging to a sinking ship, a lot of people got scared after the healthcare debates began in earnest, and decided they would rather hang onto their flawed healthcare plan than risk changes that might possibly make things worse.

    Well, guess what, my friends. The healthcare for profit ship is still sinking! And maybe you’re head is above water for the moment, but it won’t be long before all of our butts will be getting wet. Do you really think you’re premiums, deductibles, and co-pays aren’t going to double in the not so distant future? And with the inevitable 40% co-pays, or even higher, there will really be no point in having health insurance at all. Then maybe, just maybe, we will finally be ready to fix this thing right – and take the massive profits out of Americans getting sick (why aren’t more people up in arms over this simple fact alone?). When will enough be enough? 10 million Americans annually in bankruptcy court because of healthcare bills? MAYBE.

    August 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm |
  5. Ken

    People don't blame the Republicans. Look to your own party and the super majority that apparently is meaningless. Obama has to take some of the blame for the lack of progress on Health care reform. He has been on defense when he should be on offense. A 1000 page bill needs to be trimmed down to simple points that each American can understand and then support. Stop playing the bitter name calling blame game Liberals and work with everyone else to achieve a positive solution.

    August 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  6. RLWellman

    pa-tri-ot-ism: Devotion to one's country.
    pa-tri-ot: One who loves his country and zealously guards its welfare.

    See, the people who don't want the Government running health care are the same ones who are looking out for the welfare of the country.

    August 18, 2009 at 7:43 pm |
  7. d.o.Foreman

    The poor get free health care? Maybe in Arkansas, Alice. Here in Oregon the government health plan has been closed to adults for over three years. Furthermore, 83% of oregon doctors do not accept the state health plan because the state of Oregon doesn't pay it's bills and hasn't for a long time.

    August 18, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  8. Becky

    So... then roughly 12% of American CITIZENS don't have healthcare? Not sure if my math is correct. I think that's still a pretty significant number.

    August 18, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  9. betty little

    dj, illegals are already drowning our resource. haven't you read that florida health care is in brankuptcy because of illegal aliens flooding the emergency rooms. and yeah, we're paying for it. hospitals cannot deny treatment, but they can bill medicaid who issues a temporary medical assistance number to cover the costs. i worked in a pediatric office and our doctor goes a check all these babies born from illegal mothers. they all are unemployed and don't have ss# yet they all end up getting medical assistance that covers the hospital and doctors charges.

    August 18, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  10. Alice, Arkansas

    There is no way you can read the comments about health care reform and think that the majority of Americans are against it. Our senior citizens get basic health care provided by the government and the very poor get health care provided by the government. Why are there ANY American citizens walking around in this great country without basic health care. IT IS A SHAME!!

    The private sector has failed us miserably. They ruined our economy and our health care system. I would trust my life to my government any day of the week. At least I can vote them in and out.

    August 18, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  11. dj

    a coment was made and the? asked will illegals have free medical and thus drain our resourses
    my ? is do they have ss # if so how & why
    I have to show my SS# upon seeking medical help could this be a way to sift out illegal use of our health system
    no SS# no care unless a death threat
    anyone using false papers deportrd and banned for life
    ps can we regain the cost of care from the illegals home country?
    will insurances be honored between countries

    August 18, 2009 at 5:43 pm |
  12. Christina *L.A. California*

    Sherry S, I couldn't have said it better myself...

    "THE TRUE DEATH PANELS ARE THE INSURANCE COMPANIES WHO REFUSE TO INSURE PEOPLE DUE TO PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS" Someone needs to shout this phrase at one of those rediculous town hall meetings (hill-billy congregations)!!!!

    August 18, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  13. MBM

    via original Treaty obligations, Native Americans have their own federal Health Care. It is called "Indian Health Service."

    August 18, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  14. lampe

    Have you not been listening? The Dems DO NOT have the votes required to pass this, or they already would have done so.

    August 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  15. jeff

    The Dems must stand strong and firm on this issue. They have 60 Dem senators'. The public option must be included. This is a once in a liftime chance to get real healthcare reform in the US ,, Be strong Dems a majority of the country is counting on you...

    August 18, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  16. MBM

    proposed plans do NOT affect Medicare AT ALL – the "Public Option" would just allow more of us to opt into a Medicare-like program.

    August 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Charles

    Obvious fact: The Insurance and big pharma co's make huge profits by denying claims and dropping the sick. The GOP is in the pocket of these industries. The aformentioned spend $ convincing the ignorant to scream and wail about totaly contrived issues and repeat lies they spew out through unstable, drug addicted talk show hosts... The real shocker is that this vocal, not too bright minority seems to be dominating the debate!

    August 18, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  18. Darla Ross

    I do not understand exactly what is going on. My husband has no healthcare because he was laid off 12-20-2008. I have medicare thru disability. How is the new healthcare plan the government is proposing going to affect medicare?

    August 18, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  19. Melissa

    Its amazing how many people on here are heartless enough not to care about their own fellow citizens. I guess they've forgotten what the word "patriotism" means, since all they seem to use it for is to justify killing other people in their own minds.

    August 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  20. Enough

    Too bad they don't replace Workmans compensation insurance with Health insurance. If they did every worker would be coverered.

    August 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  21. betty little

    I believe that american indians and african americans should be covered. But if we also try to cover illegal aliens who are multiplying by the thousands and not paying taxes, then the fall of the america as we know will be inminent. This country has a duty to insure their citizens, but if we let barbarians infiltrate our nation, then the history of the roman empire will be repeated in the 21st century. Most illegal inmigrants come to exploit the system and they never assimilate to the culture. I can speak the truth as somebody who grew up in the latin american culture and once I became a citizen after following legal procedures never looked back. My heart breaks to see america sucumbing to the hands of this barbarians. President Obama won't do anything to protect america and americans are too trusting and naive. We still have time to rescue our beloved nation from the hands of vultures.

    August 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  22. MBM

    my (a/k/a TundraVision) review of Gov Dean's book:

    Senators and Representatives, Republicans and so-called Blue Dog Democrats, bought by Insurance companies and pharmaceutical conglomerates, are out to kill any and all bills attempting to disturb their oh-so-comfortable status quo. Their buddies are spreading lies and fomenting un-civil disruption of meetings designed to disseminate the truth about pending Health Care Reforms. These uprisings are not impromptu Grassroots displays – they are astroturf incited and produced by all those folks I mentioned above.

    Get Dr./Governor/Chairman Howard Dean's book. Read it. Act. If you don't, we will all be sold down the river. Again.

    I am a solo private practitoner attorney who represents people who have been wrongfully denied Social Security and SSI Disability benefits. and I could go on and on about the horrors of our current "system" – unless my client happens to be a Veteran, and is therefore eligible for the *Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care is Better Than Yours* – (see, the Government CAN deliver good care!)
    I am just me – no employees.
    I find myself constantly paying more and more for less and less health insurance coverage from Blue Cross/Blue Shield so that they can pay their employees more and more obscene perks.
    This is very, very wrong.

    The Democrat(?) president now appears to be throwing out the baby AND the bath water in an attempt to garner "bi-partisan" support from folk (again, see above) who ain't not never gonna vote for any of it – not no way, not no how.

    Dean explains the mess we are currently in and what YOU can do about it.

    The abandonment of the "Public Option," which is itself a compromise from the more sensible single-payor system (it works for my clients! i.e. Medicare,) would totally gut "Health Care Reform" and then allow Obama to take credit for health care reform that isn't reform at all.

    Stand Up! Stand Firm.

    August 18, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  23. Eye Rolling Mavis

    [QUESTION: Who does NOT have health care insurance and why?

    46 million people in the U.S. are uninsured – that’s one out of every six people. They have a wide range of incomes – they are not just the poor… almost two thirds of all uninsured people earn more than $21,203 a year…]

    – They are predominantly Hispanic, American Indian, and African American]

    Then don't it make more sense to develop a plan that covers this segment of the population verses trying to reinvent the wheel? Look at the expense alone of trying to implement such a massive system, its probably enough to supplement the employers of this segement or support a cheaper plan for them. The solution isn't as complex as DC wants us to think it is.

    Its a matter of changing medicaid rules, and the federal governement increasing the funding to the states so its controlled at the state level.

    As far as catastrophic disease (which includes my husband ) changing a few rules in medicare and SSDI would cover this segment as well. Or an extension of medicare and/or a "public option", that covers terminal and debilitating diseases. To cover the unemployed, again, use the "public option" for these people until they secure employment.

    Why not improve the systems already in place? As a systems analyst I can assure you its the most profitable avenue to follow. You never implement and entirely new system at once, you continuously fine tune your current system and work the bugs out of it. You don't abandon it for years on end; then scratch your head wondering what went wrong with it, or try to point a finger at one person or party to place blame.

    I have ffordable insurance, I pay $400 a month with a $300 annual deductible – I seriously doubt the "public option" will give me the same benefits or even come close to what I already have.

    Thank you for the above information – it makes me even more determined to stop the healthcare reform as its being presented.

    August 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  24. d.o.Foreman

    The furor over this issue is beginning to overshadow the basic necessity. People who are dealing with this problem gave up on statistics and government banter a long time ago. There is no way everyone is going to be happy with any solution. Here in Oregon you are lucky to have a $10 per hour job 'without' benefits. Those employers who do offer health coverage offer it at a price – from your paycheck. You then are slammed with a $1000.00 deductible. On $10 per hour? Oregon has the 'Oregon Health Plan', but unless you have a minor child and you are that child's sole support, you cannot get on 'The Plan'. The Oregon Health Plan has been closed to adults for over three years now. My family lost everything when I became ill. Running a small business was putting food on the table but having health coverage was not affordable. We lost our business, our home – everything. We were homeless. And that first night after losing our home when we were wondering where we were going to sleep, all I could think of was all those payroll taxes and income taxes that I've paid out over the years.

    August 18, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  25. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Who are the uninsured?
    – They are U.S. citizens… 79% of uninsured residents are native or naturalized U.S. citizens.

    Note the careful phrasing, '79% of uninsured RESIDENTS.' that means 21% or 10 million of the uninsured are NOT citizens. Why are they even in the equation? Also it's estimated that 10-15 million (mostly young) can afford insurance and just spend their money elsewhere,and another 10 million are eligible for Medicare and haven't registered. The REAL story is that only 8-10 million American citizens are without health care. Please provide ALL the facts, not just your preselected version.

    August 18, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  26. Denise


    Has there been a demographic done by AGE – Pro- Healthcare Reform vs Opposed Healthcare Reform. I believe that is where the difference lies.

    My other question - Is Medicare (US version of socialized medicine) discriminatory. It is a government funded program, which we support with our tax dollars and yet we are not allowed to participate in the program until we are 65 - isn’t that discrimination?

    If a Government Health Care option comes off the table should we be challenging Medicare’s practice of age discrimination?

    Or Are those opposed to health care reform really opposed to the Medicare and its expansion - is Medicare the next to go, in the name of capitalism and the free market?

    Your thoughts...Denise

    August 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  27. Rebecca Rak

    I'm a journalism student, and my mother lost her job right before I started school, so I'm not covered anymore by her insurance. Yeah, my school has a health center included in my tuition, but only for the school year, and only for minor things. If anything serious happens, I'm SOL, because I can't afford to get it on my own. I try to live healthy and do what I can, but you don't always have control of what happens to you. I'd love it if I could get insurance, but as of right now, it just isn't an option.

    What really insults me is people implying that I want a free ride, and am not a hard worker, or somehow my mom deserved to lose her job. I'm just like everyone else, struggling to make ends meet in this economy, and doing the best I can. I just want affordable insurance!

    Thanks Mr. Afsari and AC360 for clearing this up for the people! 🙂

    August 18, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  28. Oulin

    No child left behind takes on a new and finer meaning.

    No child's family left behind.

    No one left behind.

    It is time to clean up records keeping in Medicare. It is time for universal health care for everyone.

    August 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  29. Lynda

    Health Care.. ugghh what a topic. There are moments I want to scream, then there are moments I want to cry! Ok, I may be a bit on the emotional side today.. I just took my son to the ortho. to get his braces removed. I had to disguise the event to him and pump him up .. only to have him think he was ready to get them removed; when in reality I am laid off and lost medical coverage and could no longer afford to pay for it.
    I dont get child support, so no I cant go to their father. I DID humiliate myself and apply for Medicade... but they dont cover it and though I am happy my two teenage boys were approved, I wasnt. I make too much on unemployment to be covered?? SERIOUSLY? Anyway, it was a hard day to say the least. My comment is just to say that health care coverage should be available to anyone who is unemployed and all children. Even if once the person is employed again – if they used any coverage, have a plan that we can pay back into for the costs ( depending on income etc.) The point is, if adults that are laid off cannot get insurance and we obtain medical bills.. it is going on our credit. Then when we are applying for jobs we are going to be declined per our credit ratings! So then we are NEVER going to get ahead! I made about 65k a year and though I am not rich.. I worked my butt off in order to be a single successful single parent. Now my assets are depleted and my credit is at risk.
    It is a domino effect.. WASHINGTON PLEASE MAKE A DECISION!!!


    LD Mackey

    August 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  30. Peggy

    "- They have a wide range of incomes – they are not just the poor… almost two thirds of all uninsured people earn more than $21,203 a year…"

    I can't believe that you don't think earning less than $22,000 a year is considered poor. I find it had to live on $36,000 (gross) a year with the cost of living now. If you figure in all average, necessary monthly expenses, including food, utilities, rent or mortgage, auto payment and insurance, gasoline, etc., I barely make it, and I don't pay rent or mortgage. Please tell me where you live.

    August 18, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  31. Linda B., Ga.

    I early retired from a Fortune 500 company and fall into the 55-64 year old range. I was offered health insurance, upon retriring, but, with the economy being in the state that it is in, I had to cancel my policy because I could no longer afford the monthly payments.

    So, It's not just the younger people who can't afford health insurance and even those who have insurance through the companies they work for are paying a LARGE monthly premium.

    My question is and will always be: Why can't the American people be offered the "same" policy that is offered to our Senators and US REP's? It is my understanding that their monthly premiums are low cost that really good. Why should they be the "only" ones to benefit?

    August 18, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  32. GF, Los Angeles

    As one of those insured through a PPO, I still pay a lot for out of pocket versus having an HMO and it's only for preventive maintenance – I can't imagine if I actually had a condition. What's sad is the doctors are the ones who are hurt because of insurance. They work more for less pay. I say get rid of the insurance companies monopoly on healthcare. Having insurance is not the answer.

    August 18, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  33. AJ

    Even if David Gregory was trying to say that 75% was a percentage of those insured vs entire population, he should have said 62% (159/255 * 100). Even with these numbers his error was: 13% of 255 million people – counting almost 33 million in the wrong category!!)

    August 18, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  34. Michael C. McHugh

    People with little or no money generally lack private health insurance, and that's why it's necessary to expand Medicare and Medicaid to cover them. If the Democratic Party can't do that, then what do we need a Democratic Party for? What's its purpose in life?

    We all know the Republicans want to leave everyone to the mercies of the "free market". They have been saying the same thing since about 1882, but that should never be the guiding philosophy of the Democratic Party. If it is, then I want nothing more to do with it. We don't need TWO Republican parties–one is more than enough for me.

    August 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  35. AJ

    These numbers are somewhat cofusing. I like the breakdown given in Time magazine (8/10 issue). Their numbers are close to the numbers above but much easier to understand. Of the entire population, 85% are insured and 15% uninsured (same as above). Of the 85% insured, 53% are employer based insured, 5% are privately insured and 27% are govt insured (medicare, medicaid, military etc.) adding to 85% (it is not 53% of 85% etc. – when you start looking at percentages of percentages as the data in this article enumerates, it gets confusing. Keep it simple!! Not the fault of the writer, it is the way the census data is reported. Assuming a population of 300 million, these numbers break down as follows: Employer based insured: 159 million, privately insured: 15 million, insured via govt. plans: 81 million and uninsured: 45 million.

    This is one of the reasons why many TV hosts/guests, politicians throw numbers at us that are wrong. Last Sunday, David Gregory during "meet the press" was saying 75% of the population (3/4 of the US population – 225 million (as compared to 159 million, the correct number) were getting employer based HC insurance!! (a number inflated by 41% !!)

    August 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  36. Sherry S

    The TRUE Death Panels are the insurance companies who refuse to insure people due to pre-existing conditions. THEY are the ones who choose who should live and die. Every day people die because they can't afford to get medical care due to the fact they couldn't get insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Wouldn't that make the insurance companies the TRUE Death Panels????

    August 18, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  37. LaSharion

    Yes, some voters are angry but it has nothing to do with health care It's deep rooted hate. This attitude will forever be a part of America. There is no escaping it you acknowledge what it is and move on. It's not every American, it exist. They attend church, pray, and read the constitution but they have this intense hostility toward people unlike themselves. No matter the reason fear, jealousy, how they were raised etc. the expression is the same. It comes up it comes out.

    O.K. no government ran health care plan we will not re-scramble the egg or get another, we won't use one at all. Everybody will get their on private insurance plan. Get rid of medicaid, VA and any other Insurance plan the government pays for. Is that a little clearer?

    If the money was there, no one had to pay doctors were happy and people were getting great care you would get the same response from the same people the media focuses on daily. Yes they are real people.

    August 18, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  38. R Kilani

    I am amzed that through out this health care debate no body mentioned . united health care CEO bonus of more than one billion dollars few years ago..did any body questioned how did they do that...
    there is no place for profit companies in the america health care .
    Dr's Hospital and other health care services make a living from delivering health care that is there profession. let's take all the the middle men and the no sayers out of ther boots expose how rotten insurance health care idustries in America is.

    Pubic option is the only the only option that will put the insurance industries in a level.playing feild.
    i am shocked buy the tacticis that they employed to kill the public option.
    if the kill it that is the proof to me at least that is crooks in America
    are far more powerful than the honest hard working american.

    August 18, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  39. Arachnae

    Also? The fact that most people get their health insurance through their employers is an accident of history. Wage controls during WWII caused employers to start offering health insurance to lure people to work for them since they couldn't offer them more money than the other guy.

    We are the ONLY economy that ties insurance to one's specific place of employment. We also spend about twice what most other economies spend for healthcare. Coincidence?

    August 18, 2009 at 11:21 am |