NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

No Mystery In Rising Rates Of Uninsured

December 7, 1999

One might assume that with rising rates of employment more and more workers would have health insurance. But although jobless rates have tumbled to 4.1 percent, the number of people without health insurance has climbed by more than 900,000 a year on average since 1995.

But contrary to President Clinton's assertions that employers are dropping workers health benefits, evidence suggests that they actually are expanding them.

  • Employer-based coverage climbed to 62 percent of the population last year from 60.9 percent in 1994 -- and is the highest since 1987's peak of 62.1 percent.
  • While almost two million workers saw employers drop health benefits between 1995 and 1997, according to a RAND Corp. study, almost four million workers were employed at firms that added a health benefit -- more than making up for the withdrawals.
  • Half of employers surveyed paid for 90 percent or more of the premiums, while seven out of 10 paid 80 percent or more.
  • So those 900,000 who are losing coverage each year are not the victims of employers denying health benefits. Experts say other factors are at work.

The answer may lie with young people ages 18 to 24 -- one of the fastest growing age groups in America. Some 55 percent of that group went without health insurance for at least one month between 1993 and 1996, according to Census Bureau data.

Many of them have access to campus health clinics. Others are making the move from homes to full-time jobs. These young adults are more likely to lack health coverage.

Another explanation is that during the 1995 survey, Census started making allowances for households which had at least one Hispanic member. That change could help account for the jump in the uninsured, because the Hispanic uninsured rate is more than triple the rate for whites.

Source: Paul Sperry, "Who's Behind Rise in Uninsured?" Investor's Business Daily, December 7, 1999.


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