Report: One in four Floridians under 65 are uninsured
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11/01/07 Seán Kinane
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One quarter of all Floridians under the age of 65 do not have health insurance, according to U.S. Census Bureau data citied in a report released on Monday by the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board. The Board advises the Legislature and several executive departments on health insurance issues.

Based on 2006 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, there are more than 3.8 million Floridians without health insurance out of a total of 18.1 million. The total number of people in Florida without health insurance has increased, as has the percentage of uninsured, according to Jim Brocker, who is the executive director of the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board.

“The number of people without health insurance of any kind in Florida continues to increase. It’s increased every year for a number of years. And if you focus on the people who are under 65 in the state, the U.S. Census Bureau estimate was that 25% of the people in Florida under 65 do not have health insurance.”

According to the report, the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board is required to document “enrollment and premium data for Florida’s commercial [or private] health insurance markets and statistical information on the demographics and rates of insurance coverage for Florida’s employers.”

The Board has studied data since 2001 and found that in 2006 for the first time the number of people covered by private health insurance in Florida has increased. It had been decreasing every year, even though Florida’s population was increasing. Brocker said that the Board will meet on Friday to discuss recommendations they will make to the Legislature.

“We’re going to be discussing some ideas about offering some assistance to people who are generally considered uninsurable because of health conditions, also perhaps to people who perhaps are not financially able to purchase health insurance on their own. These recommendations would cost money in some way and whether or not that’s going to be possible in today’s economic environment, I don’t know. So those may be more of a longer term issue.”

At least two of the strategies the Health Insurance Advisory Board will discuss are ways to get more healthy people to buy health insurance from private companies. Brocker said that one is to consider allowing adult children up to age 30 to remain on their parents’ health plan.

“That’s one we think is important because what it does is younger people are generally more healthy, and so to the extent you can find ways to get younger people to be covered by insurance, that should be a plus because we need healthy people to buy health insurance as well as sick people.”

According to the agenda of the Health Insurance Advisory Board meeting, the group will also discuss another strategy to get more healthy people to purchase private insurance: mandating that all college students purchase health coverage, with a hardship waiver available “for those students where purchase of such a policy might prevent their attending school.”

Tony Teixeira, student body president of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, says forcing all students to buy insurance is bad idea because it would mean that some students would be priced out of higher education.

“Especially now with … a potential increase in student tuition coming up next term, I think at best they would have to do some kind of feasibility study right now, prior to forcing an insurance upon students, unless for need-based students we can find a way of subsidizing it for them. I think it will keep a lot of kids out of college, actually, to be honest with you.”

Leonard Rodberg is a professor and chair of Urban Studies at Queens College in New York City and also serves as research director for the New York Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. He will testify tomorrow at a hearing called by Gov. Eliot Spitzer on how to achieve universal healthcare in New York State.

Rodberg said getting rid of health insurance in favor of a universal single-payer system of healthcare would save Floridians money and increase the likelihood that everyone has access to quality health care.

“The only real answer is to deal with the sources of the waste that costs us in the present system. Insurance as we now try to purchase it is just becoming unaffordable to many, many people, to millions of people.

"And as we see it, the only solution is to move toward a single system, what is commonly called a single-payer system, like Medicare, where you can save something like, we estimate, 30-percent of the cost that is wasted on billing and on administration and use that to care for people. So within the same amount of money we’re now spending, we could provide coverage for everyone. Every other country has managed to do it, it’s time this country did.”

Florida’s Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty declined to be interviewed for this report.

The Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board will meet on Friday at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Learn more:

Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

Kevin M. McCarty, Commissioner of the Office of Insurance Regulation

Consumer Federation of the Southeast

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Mark S. Thomas, Chief of Staff

Physicians for a National Health Program

Leonard Rodberg

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