A Chicago-area study shows that lack of health insurance permeates even the middle class, where one in five families making $75,000 or more a year have at least one member without coverage.
"This shows that the impact of uninsurance affects all of us, even the middle class," says Deborah Rosenberg, an author of the study and a research assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Rosenberg says the study, based on data from the 2000 census, did not examine what caused lack of coverage among higher-income people, but experts have identified a variety of factors.
In addition to healthy young people's lack of interest in coverage, middle-class people may not be able to afford insurance because of the high cost of coverage for small companies and the self-employed and the high cost of insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.
The findings are "a good argument for universal health coverage," Rosenberg says, though she concedes that such action is unlikely in the near future.
Specifically, the survey found that 22% of Chicago-area families in the $75,000-or-more income bracket have at least one uninsured member, compared with 34% of families making $25,000 to $75,000 and 41% of families making up to $25,000.
Educational level produces wider differences in coverage. Shifting its attention to the entire state of Illinois, where coverage rates are somewhat higher, the survey found that 9.6% of those with a college degree are uninsured, compared with 17.8% of those with a high school degree and 32% of those with no high school degree.