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Millions of Americans Still Uninsured


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Mamie Jackson remembers how bad she felt when her doctor told her that her kidneys were failing.

"I kind of went into shock and went numb because I was in my early thirties and he's telling me, 'You're not going to be able to work anymore to take care of yourself," Jackson said.

The Los Angeles college professor had struggled for years with her kidneys. But without the ability to work, she knew she couldn't afford health insurance. That meant no kidney transplant.

Like Mamie, a recent ABC News poll found that six out of 10 Americans with health insurance worry about not being able to afford health care in the future. Eventually, Mamie was able to get a kidney transplant, but she had to qualify for Medicare first.

"I had to spend all my money in order to be able to get that help from the country," she said.

According to a 2006 U.S.census report, nearly 47 million Americans don't have health insurance of any kind. Some turn to the government for help or go to a hospital emergency room where they won't be turned away.

"We do have a de facto policy of universal access, it's called the emergency room," said Dr. John Kitzhaber, a former emergency room physician and former governor of Oregon. "Then those uncompensated costs are shifted back to people who have insurance coverage by increasing their bills or increasing their insurance premiums."

But whether or not you have insurance, the U.S. healthcare system is loaded with problems. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine estimates 100,000 Americans die each year from medical errors.

Last month, Dawn Jeffries and two other premature babies died after being given the wrong dose of a blood thinner.

"My baby was fine before they gave her the Heparin," said Heather Jeffries, Dawn's mother.

Dr. Kitzhaber says another problem is that people need to focus more on prevention.

"It's a system that sort of lies in the weeds until people are very, very sick and then rushes in with extraordinarily marvelous and expensive high technology to help you recover on the back end," he said.

With so many saying the entire healthcare system needs an overhaul, the big question now is, how to fix it.