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Safety And Security

The working uninsured

September 19, 2010
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Many people think that all full-time jobs come with health insurance and anyone without insurance must be without a job.

This is not the case at all.

Here are the real facts: Sixty percent of uninsured adults work full-time and only about 17 percent of uninsured adults, who are also the heads of their families, are unemployed.

Today, it is more difficult than ever for employers to provide health insurance to their employees.

The costs just continue to rise.

This hits blue collar workers especially hard.

In fact, 25 percent of blue collar workers do not have health insurance.

Unfortunately, those who do not receive health insurance through their employer are often left without coverage.

They may not be able to afford to purchase their own coverage or even know where to look for it.

However, going without health insurance is dangerous.

People without insurance often have bigger medical problems and higher rates of serious illness than those who have coverage.

According to the Institute of Medicine, more than 50 percent of all adults without health insurance do not see a doctor or get regular care, which results in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

The importance of health care
Health insurance is widely recognized as the only affordable way for Americans to pay for health care.

It protects people from paying the full cost of medical care and makes yearly check-ups and other medical services, such as surgeries, easier to afford.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 uninsured Americans found that about 33 percent feel their lack of health insurance has worsened their health.

About 50 percent said they have experienced a time when they knew they needed medical care and actually avoided seeking it because they had no insurance.

Without health insurance, people often skip doctor’s visits.

They do not get important screenings, such as mammograms or prostate exams.

They also skip blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.

This sort of routine care is very important.

It often helps doctors spot a serious illness or life-threatening disease in the early stages when it is easiest to treat.

In the end, avoiding medical care for any reason can have a significant impact on overall health and the quality of care when it is received.

Help your employees find insurance
There are some ways your employees can find health insurance if they are not covered through their job.

Employees without health insurance have the option of buying individual health insurance for themselves and their families.

These plans often have higher monthly premiums, but they can ultimately save money by helping to cover the cost of doctor’s visits and medical procedures that may be too expensive for people to afford without insurance.

Individual plans are available through insurance brokers, who are paid by health plans, or directly from health insurance companies.

Visit to get quotes from individual health plans.

Find out about government-subsidized insurance programs
Federal and state governments have programs in place to help people without insurance.

These programs are often for people with low incomes and cover a wide range of medical services.

Medicaid is the main government-subsidized program in each state, and it provides coverage to 55 million people throughout the country.

There are about 11 million Americans who are eligible for coverage through Medicaid or other government-subsidized programs, but have not signed up and remain uninsured.

This is partly because these programs can be hard to find and even harder to understand.

But, they are available and can help provide health insurance to those who need it.

Government regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), let people keep their insurance temporarily through their previous employer for a period of time after they leave a job.

They also give people who lose health insurance they had through their job the chance to buy other insurance regardless of any health issues.

Employers should provide information to their employees about these regulations, especially if they do not provide health insurance.

Many groups offer health insurance to their members.

Check out the local Chamber of Commerce and AARP.

Other groups that may offer coverage include alumni, professional, civic, and religious organizations.

People who do not have health insurance through their jobs and cannot get it elsewhere can check their state’s high-risk pools to see if they are eligible for coverage.

For more information on high-risk pools, visit

Other ways to help
Employers who do not offer health insurance can still take some important steps to help their employees find coverage, including:
  • Make health care and safety at work a priority.
  • Provide sick time so employees can visit doctors when they need to without missing out on pay.
  • Give employees easy-to-understand materials that explain all available health insurance programs.
  • Tell employees about resources like the Insure Your Health guide, which can be ordered on is another helpful website. These resources have information on health insurance and programs to help the uninsured.
People need health insurance.

The options above are very helpful, so encourage your employees to find the coverage they need, even if it is not offered through a plan at work.

Dr. Valerie Beckles, FAAP, is a medical director of a managed care organization and a board certified pediatrician. She also organizes and leads medical mission trips abroad. She supports’s free guide to finding free or low-cost health insurance programs.
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