Number of Uninsured Drops for Second Consecutive Year
Fueled by an increase in employer-sponsored health insurance, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped for the second year in a row, decreasing from 39.3 million in 1999 to 38.7 million in 2000, according to Census Bureau figures. Fourteen percent of the population was uninsured in 2000, compared with 14.3% in 1999. The number of uninsured children also dropped in 2000, by 693,000 to 8.5 million; the number of poor children without insurance dropped by 248,000 to 2.5 million. The number of poor adults without insurance declined to 9.2 million last year, from 10 million in 1999. The rise in employer-sponsored health coverage is the "main driving force" behind lower uninsured figures, Charles Nelson, a Census Bureau statistician, said. The number of people with such coverage rose by more than three million last year, to 177 million. Kate Sullivan, director of health care policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said many employers, especially small businesses, have used health benefits to "lure" employees.
Most analysts do not expect the downward trend in the number of uninsured to continue, particularly with a "weakened" economy, the growing number of unemployed workers and increasing costs of health care, the New York Times reports. Many states also are facing Medicaid budget shortfalls, and some have considered "trimming" their programs (Pear, New York Times, 9/28). Other "[d]iscouraging signs" include a report from the Center for Studying Health System Change that said in 2000, health costs increased 7.2% -- the largest increase in 10 years -- and health premiums increased 11% (Armas, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/28). Sullivan said, "I expect to see an increase in the number of uninsured in 2001 because people have been losing their jobs." Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) added, "With the economic downturn, we need to be worried that more Americans will become uninsured. We know that when people lose their jobs, they are likely to lose their health insurance as well" (New York Times, 9/28).
The Census Bureau figures also reveal the following:
- In 2000, 29.5% of the poor lacked insurance, compared with 31.1% in 1999 (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/28).
- Of all age groups, 18- to 24-year-olds were the most likely to be uninsured in 2000 (Appleby, USA Today, 9/28).
- People who were not born in the United States were three times as likely as U.S.-born residents to lack insurance (Ling, Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 9/28).
- Compared with blacks and non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics were more likely to be uninsured. In 2000, 32.2% of Hispanics, 18.5% of blacks and 9.7% of non-Hispanic whites lacked health coverage.
- Rhode Island had the lowest rate of uninsurance with 6.9%, followed by Minnesota and Iowa with 8.2% of their populations uninsured, compared with 22.6% uninsured in New Mexico and 22.2% uninsured in Texas, the two states with the highest uninsurance rate.
- The number of people enrolled in government health programs increased by about 355,000 to 66.9 million in 2000. Specifically, the number of children in Medicaid has declined, while the number enrolled in CHIP programs has increased, the Urban Institute's John Holahan said (New York Times, 9/28).
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.