Understanding the makeup of the uninsured population helps companies look at how to structure their products and determine whether they need to change something about a product to make it more attractive for an employer to offer coverage, said Ray Baxter, senior vice president of community benefit for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc.
Currently, about 19% of the uninsured population are between the ages of 18 and 24.
For example, the greatest proportion of the uninsured live in the South and West, with the largest percentage in California, New Mexico and Texas.
Although most insurers feel the uninsured situation will continue to get worse before it gets better, some are proposing solutions to the problem.
"The problem is absolutely susceptible to great improvements if we can get policymakers to understand the demographic makeup of the uninsured, and if they go at it in three simple steps to attack it: offer tax incentives to those who can't afford coverage, enroll those eligible for existing government-sponsored programs into those programs, and change the perception of affordability to those who can afford coverage," said Schaeffer of WellPoint.
In addition, the association advocates federal grants for innovative state programs, including collaborative (insurers, physicians, hospitals) private programs to expand health coverage; community health centers that provide health care to the uninsured; and subsidies to state high-risk pools.
"The number of insured is a direct function of the strength of the economy--as the economy turns around, we'll see more people covered and fewer uninsured," said Schaeffer.
Senate Republicans proposed a wide range of tax credits, subsidies and discounts to different groups, while House Democrats offered a three-bill package containing measures that previously have been introduced--something they say could cover more than half of the uninsured. Senate Democrats also joined the fight recently by calling on Congress to pass legislation by the end of 2006 to provide all Americans the opportunity to purchase health insurance that is the same as, or better than, coverage available to members of Congress, at the same or lower rates.
Helping the uninsured is also at center stage in this year's presidential campaign.
The prior push by some advocates for a federal mandate that would require employers to provide healthcare coverage for employees is something insurers fear would be an onerous answer for the millions of uninsured individuals and their employers.
Many insurers and corporations are trying to find their own ways to drive down the rising number of uninsured individuals.
In the 1990s, the company began a "Caring Program for Children" and helped more than 13,000 uninsured children receive necessary care before the program ended after 10 years to make way for HealthWave--the State Children's Health Insurance Program.