The Numbers of the Uninsured are Rising
September 30, 2003
The federal government says 43.6 million Americans lacked health insurance last year. That's more than the population of the nation's 24 smallest states plus the District of Columbia, and it adds fuel to a growing debate about both the cost and availability of health care.
- The new Census Bureau figures show that 15.2 percent of Americans didn't have coverage for all of last year, an increase of 2.4 million people from 2001, when 14.6 percent were uninsured.
- The 5.8 percent rise in the uninsured resulted from a decline in the percentage of people covered by employer-based insurance -- 61.3 percent last year, down from 62.6 percent the year before.
- That deterioration, economists say, reflected increases in unemployment and the rise in health care costs, which prompted some employers to drop coverage.
- Last year, 29.6 percent went without, up from 28.1 percent the year before.
- Health analysts attribute the increase to decisions by young, healthy workers to opt out of employer-sponsored health plans as employee contributions rise.
- In addition, they say, some younger workers couldn't find jobs because of economic conditions.
Meanwhile, the Census Bureau says, the percentage of people covered by government programs -- primarily Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor and disabled, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- rose to 25.7 percnet last year from 25.3 percent the year before.
Source: Sara Schaefer And Laurie Mcginley, "Number of Americans Who Lack Health-Care Coverage Is Rising: Census Bureau Counts 43.6 Million As Employer-Based Plans Shrink," Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2003.
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