Number of underinsured up since 2003

The number of underinsured adults—those with health insurance, but high medical expenses relative to income— rose by 80 percent between 2003 and 2010, from 16 million to 29 million, according to a study from the Commonwealth Fund.

 For the study, underinsured adults were defined as those who report at least one of following: family out-of-pocket medical care expenses (not including premiums) that are 10 percent or more of income; among low-income adults (i.e., incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level), medical expenses that are 5 percent or more of income; or per-person deductibles that are 5 percent or more of income.

Key findings:

  • The number of underinsured adults rose by 80 percent between 2003 and 2010, from 16 million to 29 million.
  • Low-income families were most at risk of being underinsured.  77% of those with incomes below 133 percent of the poverty level were either underinsured or uninsured.
  • In 2010, 16% of adults with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000 were underinsured and another 19 percent were uninsured. In 2003, only 5% of adults with incomes in this range were underinsured.
  • Underinsured and uninsured patients were more likely to not get all recommended care compared to those who were adequately insured.

The authors state that if the Affordable Care Act succeeds in reaching those with low and modest incomes, the number of underinsured could be reduced by 70 percent once the law is fully implemented.

(Source: The Commonwealth Fund,, September 8, 2011)