A look at key issues in the health care debate:
THE ISSUE: How many people have health insurance now, and how would that change if the system is overhauled?
THE POLITICS: One of the driving causes behind the longtime effort to overhaul health care is the desire to reduce the number of families that lack health insurance. The number of people without insurance rose to 46.3 million in 2008, or about 15 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau. Just under 60 percent of Americans get coverage through an employer, or about 176 million people. Medicare, the government program for retirees, covers most of those 65 years or older — about 41 million beneficiaries. Medicaid provides health coverage for low-income children, families and people with disabilities — about 40 million people.
WHAT IT MEANS: The insurance industry supports the idea of universal health insurance coverage because it would add individuals to their risk pools, many of them young and healthy, and thus reduce their costs. They oppose the idea of insuring workers through a government-run plan that would compete with private plans. Legislation pending in Congress would require Americans to obtain insurance, but exemptions would stop short of making it universal. A bill just passed by the Senate Finance Committee would increase the number of insured non-elderly residents by about 29 million, or from 83 percent to about 94 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A pending House bill would increase the number by 37 million, leaving 17 million uninsured, the CBO concluded.
_ Jim Kuhnhenn
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