82 Million U.S. Residents Lacked Coverage at Some Point in 2002-2003, Study Finds
Nearly 82 million U.S. residents under the age of 65 were uninsured at some point in 2002 and 2003, an increase of seven million over the rate of 74.7 million in 2001-2002, according to a new study from Families USA conducted by the Lewin Group, USA Today reports. The new report, released Wednesday, found that 81.8 million people, or 32% of U.S. residents under age 65, were uninsured at some point during 2002 and 2003. About half of those lacked coverage for at least nine months, and two-thirds lacked coverage for at least six months, the study found. About half of all U.S. residents ages 18 to 24 -- most of whom had recently left school and begun work -- were uninsured during part of the two-year period, and 27 million of those uninsured at some point during that time were children younger than 18, accounting for more than one-third of all U.S. children, according to the study (Welch, USA Today, 6/16). The study also found that African Americans and Hispanics were most likely to be uninsured, with nearly 60% of Hispanics and 43% of African Americans lacking coverage at some point during the study period. Among whites, the uninsured rate was 23.5%. In addition, the study found that among families with incomes of at least $75,000, 13.5 million were uninsured during part of 2002-2003 (CongressDaily, 6/16). In fourteen states, more than one-third of the non-elderly population was uninsured during at least part of the study period (USA Today, 6/16). Texas had the highest rate of uninsured in the United States, with 43.4% of residents under 65 without coverage at some point during the study period. Other states with high rates of uninsured non-elderly residents at some point in the study period included New Mexico with 42.4%, California with 37.1%, Nevada with 36.8%, Louisiana with 36.2%, Arizona with 35.7%, Mississippi with 35.1% and Oklahoma with 35% (CongressDaily, 6/16).
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, speculated that the growth in the number of uninsured U.S. residents is attributable to rising health care costs, an increase in the number of employers who are passing health costs on to workers and reductions in state safety-net programs (Sherman, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 6/15). He said the findings of the survey show that lack of health insurance is an issue not only for low-income or elderly people but is also "a concern of self-interest to middle-class and working families. ... It is truly an enormous epidemic." Stuart Butler, vice president of domestic and economic studies at the Heritage Foundation, said the study makes a "fair point" about the extent of uninsurance, adding that so far, political differences over how to address the issue have prevented lawmakers from crafting a solution. He added, "You see it every day -- people who cannot afford to leave their job because they have medical problems. People are just trapped." USA Today reports that health care and the uninsured "looms as an important issue" in the upcoming presidential election. Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, said, "The political power of the health care issue has always been tied to the economic dimension of insecurity. What happens is the economy may start recovering, but they may be in jobs that don't offer benefits" (USA Today, 6/16). The report is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.