USA Today Examines Census Bureau Report on the Uninsured
The U.S. Census Bureau report that says the number of the uninsured rose last year at the fastest rate in a decade has "invigorated calls for legislative action, focused attention on a drop in employer-based coverage and raised questions about how the total number is tallied," USA Today reports (Appleby, USA Today, 10/1). According to the report, which was released Monday, the number of U.S. residents who were uninsured in 2002 increased by 2.4 million, or 5.8%, to 43.6 million people since 2001. In addition, the proportion of U.S. residents who were uninsured in 2002 was 15.2%, compared with 14.6% in 2001. The report also found that in 2002, the number of U.S. residents with employer-sponsored insurance dropped by 1.3 million to 175.3 million, or 61.3%, from 62.6% in 2001. At the same time, the total population grew by 3.9 million (California Healthline, 9/30). According to USA Today, the rise in the number of uninsured people is partly because of a reduction in employer-based health coverage. Some employers dropped health coverage because of rising premium costs, and some workers opted out of employer-sponsored health coverage as their share of health costs grew. The new figures have prompted lawmakers to "rene[w] their calls" for legislation to address the issue of the uninsured, USA Today reports. The Bush administration has advocated for tax credits to help lower-income U.S. residents purchase health insurance, medical savings accounts to help people save money for future health-related expenses and increased funding for public health clinics. However, Democrats contend that such efforts "do not go far enough," and they are pushing for additional funding for state health programs and permitting more residents to qualify for state and federal health programs, USA Today reports.
Many analysts contend that the Census Bureau numbers "really more accurately reflect" who was uninsured at the time of the survey than those who were uninsured for the entire year, according to USA Today. The Census Bureau asks in its survey if the respondent was uninsured all year. Other surveys ask participants if they were uninsured for part of the year. According to a March study by Families USA, 74.7 million people under age 65 were uninsured for all or part of 2001 and 2002. A recent survey by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality said that 61.7 million residents under age 65 were uninsured for some time during 2000 and 31.5 million were uninsured for the entire year. Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, "It's not that one is right and one is wrong. They're telling you different things." Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis at the Consumers Union, added, "The important thing for policymakers to understand is that when 60 million people are uninsured at some point in the year, this is truly a crisis. With numbers that large, you realize that this could be you" (USA Today, 10/1).
The following broadcast programs reported on the Census Bureau figures:
- ABCNews' "World News Tonight": The segment includes comments from Pollack and Kate Sullivan, health care policy director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Stark, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 9/30). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- CBS' "Evening News": The segment includes comments from Lindsay Farrell of Open Door Family Medical Centers and Pollack (Axelrod, "Evening News," CBS, 9/30). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Bellevue Hospital Emergency Room Director Dr. Lewis Goldfrank (Bazell, "Nightly News," NBC, 9/30). The full transcript of the segment is available online. The full segment is available online in Windows Media.
- NPR's "Talk of the Nation": The program will examine the social and economic costs of treating the uninsured (Neary, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 10/1). The full segment will be available online in RealPlayer after 6 p.m. ET.
- NPR's "Tavis Smiley Show": The segment includes comments from Pollack and Employees Benefits Security Administration Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Paul Zurawski (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," NPR, 9/30). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment includes comments from Pollack and Sullivan (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 9/30). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.