Big Increase Seen in People Lacking
September 30, 2003
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - The number of
people without health
insurance shot up last year by 2.4 million, the
increase in a decade, raising the total to 43.6
health costs soared and many workers lost coverage
by employers, the Census Bureau reported today.
The increase brought the proportion
of people who were
uninsured to 15.2 percent, from 14.6 percent in 2001.
figure remained lower than the recent peak of 16.3
A continued erosion of
employer-sponsored coverage was the
main reason for the latest increase, the bureau said.
Public programs, especially Medicaid, covered more
and cushioned the loss of employer-sponsored health
insurance but "not enough to offset the decline in
coverage," the report said.
The proportion of Americans with
insurance from employers
declined to 61.3 percent, from 62.6 percent in 2001
63.6 percent in 2000. The number of people with
employer-sponsored coverage fell last year by 1.3
to 175.3 million, even as the total population grew
Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of
health and human
services, said the numbers showed that "the nation
more" to help the uninsured. Mr. Thompson said, for
example, that Congress should provide tax credits for
purchase of private insurance.
But no action is imminent. Congress
is preoccupied with
efforts to help a large, politically potent group
already has insurance, the elderly, by adding drug
Ronald F. Pollack, executive director
of Families USA, a
liberal-leaning consumer group, said: "It's hard to
the magnitude of the number of uninsured. It exceeds
aggregate population of 24 states."
The number of full-time workers
without health insurance
rose by 897,000 last year, to 19.9 million. Kate
director of health care policy at the United States
of Commerce, said the increase was alarming and
it would continue this year.
"Workplace coverage is becoming
unaffordable for many
employers and employees," Ms. Sullivan said.
On Friday, the Census Bureau reported
that poverty rose in
2002 for the second consecutive year. The poverty
generally declines when the economy expands, but
no guarantee that the number of uninsured will also
The number of uninsured increased
each year from 1987 to
1998, even when the economy was booming. Small
accounted for many of the new jobs then, and such
businesses are far less likely to provide insurance.
Health policy experts said the number
of uninsured was
likely to rise this year because the job market
weak and many states have cut back their Medicaid
The unemployment rate was higher in 2002 than in 2001
has climbed a bit further this year.
Hanns Kuttner, a health policy
analyst at the University of
Michigan, said: "Rising rates of unemployment tend to
health insurance coverage among adults. But when
lose jobs, their children are more likely to be
for public programs."
About 8.5 million children were
uninsured in 2002. They
account for 11.6 percent of all children under 18.
numbers were virtually the same as in 2000 and 2001.
Genevieve M. Kenney, an economist at
the Urban Institute
here, said: "Programs intended to provide coverage
children are working to compensate for the economic
downturn and catching a lot of kids who would
uninsured. But many states, in the midst of a fiscal
crisis, have reduced efforts to locate and enroll
eligible for Medicaid."
Men are more likely to be uninsured
than women. Men
accounted for two-thirds of the increase in the
uninsured, apparently because they were more likely
The number of uninsured men rose by
1.6 million last year,
to 23.3 million, while the number of uninsured women
by 761,000, to 20.2 million.
The drop in coverage came even though
the number of people
with health insurance increased, by 1.5 million last
to 242.4 million. But the increase was more than
the combined effects of population growth and the
in workplace coverage.
The proportion of people without
health insurance ranged
from 8 percent in Minnesota to 24.1 percent in Texas.
rates for Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Iowa, which
sustained efforts to expand coverage, were similar to
figure in Minnesota.
Texas, facing fiscal problems and
unwilling to raise taxes,
cut back Medicaid and its Children's Health Insurance
Program this year.
Looking at two-year averages, the
Census Bureau said that
the proportion of people without coverage fell in New
Mexico but rose in 18 states: Colorado, Idaho,
Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada,
Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia
Wisconsin. The changes in the other states were not
People in the South and the West were
more likely to be
uninsured. Only 11.7 percent of people in the Middle
were uninsured, compared with 13 percent in the
17.1 percent in the West and 17.5 percent in the
As an entitlement program, Medicaid
expands to meet the
need in hard economic times.
Despite the Medicaid program, 10.5
million poor people, or
30.4 percent of those in poverty, had no health
last year. This percentage, double the rate for the
population, did not change from the prior year. About
percent of all uninsured people were poor.
The proportion of blacks and
non-Hispanic whites without
health insurance rose last year, to 20.2 percent and
percent, respectively. The figure for Hispanics was
higher, 32.4 percent, unchanged from the prior year.
Fully one-third of the foreign-born
uninsured. About 43 percent of noncitizens - 8.9
the 20.6 million noncitizens - and 17.5 percent of
naturalized citizens lacked coverage.
Among people living in poverty, 49
percent of those who
worked full-time were uninsured.
But middle-income households
accounted for most of the
increase in the number of uninsured. In households
annual incomes of $25,000 to $74,999, the number of
uninsured people rose last year by 1.4 million, to
million, and the increase was most noticeable among
households with incomes of $25,000 to $49,999.
At companies with fewer than 25
employees, only 30.8
percent of the workers had employer-sponsored
their own names last year, down from 31.3 percent in
The proportion of workers with insurance also
companies with 25 to 99 employees (by 2.4 percentage
points, to 54.4 percent) and even at businesses with
than 1,000 employees (by nine-tenths of a percentage
to 68.7 percent).
Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of
Montana, said he was
working with Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican
Iowa, on a bill that would offer tax credits to
workers to buy certain types of health insurance.
"We have long known the problem of
the uninsured is
serious," Mr. Baucus said. "This week's data show