UNINSURED: Numbers Increasing, Census Report Says
Despite a robust economy and efforts by the federal government to expand health insurance coverage to more Americans, the number of uninsured increased by nearly 1 million over 1997 levels, with 44.3 million Americans lacking insurance in 1998, USA Today reports (Puente, 10/4). The number of uninsured has increased by more than 4.5 million since President Clinton took office in 1993 (Pear, New York Times, 10/4). According to statistics to be released in today's Census Bureau report "Health Insurance Coverage: 1998," nearly 16.3% of the population were uninsured, compared to 16.1% in 1997. The relatively steady percentage is due to the overall population growth (New York Post, 10/4). The number of uninsured reached a decade high in 1998. The report found that the number of children and women without insurance increased in the last year, while the number of insured men decreased. In 1998, 21.3 million women lacked coverage, an increase of 947,000, while the number of uninsured men declined by 116,000 to 23 million. The number of children lacking insurance increased by 330,000, to 11.1 million. The statistics show that poor children under 6 years-old experienced the greatest increase from 20.1% in 1997 to 23.6% in 1998 (New York Times, 10/4).
Burden on Minorities
Latinos were the group least likely to have insurance, with 35.3% uninsured. Of the foreign-born, 34% were uninsured, compared to 14.4% of people born in the U.S. (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 10/4). Similar numbers of African Americans and Asian Americans went without insurance, 22% and 21%, respectively, while 12% of whites lacked health insurance.
How They Get It
The majority of Americans -- 70.2% -- continue to receive private insurance through employers or unions. Medicaid covered 40.6% of the poor in 1998, down from 43.3% in 1997 (Pugh, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/4). Nearly four out of five of the uninsured were full-time workers or their dependents (Westphal, Washington Times, 10/4).
Welfare Reform Contributed
The statistics are likely to fuel criticism of the government's attempts to expand health care coverage. Despite establishment of the 1997 Children's Health Insurance Program, over 11 million children remain uninsured. Analyst also blame welfare reform for the increasing number of women and children lacking coverage. As more people moved from welfare to work, they took jobs that offered little or no benefits, and confusion surrounding Medicaid eligibility led to many being dropped from government health assistance (Goldstein, Washington Post, 10/4). In addition, cuts to Medicaid have left fewer options for the poor, adding to the number of uninsured (New York Times, 10/4).