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More people go uninsured

A quarter of South Carolina’s population soon could be without health insurance as the state’s jobless rate continues to rises, even after the recession ends.

A recent study found 712,000 S.C. residents younger than 65 did not have health insurance.

That estimate, from a North Carolina Institute of Medicine report on the uninsured in five Southern states, was based on 2007 data, when South Carolina’s jobless rate was much lower, said Lynn Bailey, a Columbia health-care economist. With 11.4 percent of the state’s work force looking for a job in March, the number of uninsured already could be as high as a million — or one in every four South Carolinians, Bailey said.

More than half the state’s population get health insurance from employers, said Greg Fischer, vice president of marketing and sales at Columbia-based BlueCrossBlueShield of South Carolina. But his company’s recent research shows that percentage is shrinking.

An uninsured population brings problems.

“Going to the doctor for maintenance becomes discretionary income,” Bailey said.

As a result, people ignore health issues until they become a more costly crisis.

The growing number of uninsured also will add to the cost of the state’s Medicaid program and make hospital emergency rooms even more crowded.

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JUST DON’T GET SICK, OK?

Three trends shaping South Carolina’s health-care future:

More uninsured. In 2007, 712,000 S.C. residents between the ages of 18 and 64 did not have health insurance. That was a 45 percent increase since 2000, according to a North Carolina Institute of Medicine study.

More jobless. In March, the state’s jobless rate climbed to 11.4 percent, up from 5.6 percent two years ago. That could signal a big jump in the number of South Carolinians without health insurance or relying on Medicaid, which pays for health care for the poor.

Fewer get health insurance on the job. In 2007, 51 percent of South Carolinians with health insurance received it through their employers, according to Blue-Cross BlueShield of South Carolina. That’s down from previous years, BlueCross said.

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