Percentage of uninsured Americans rises

December 1, 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative

The number of Americans with health insurance rose by 1.2 million between 2000 and 2001, to 240.9 million, but at the same time the number of uninsured rose by 1.4 million, reaching 41.2 million, according to numbers from the Census Bureau.

The number of Americans with health insurance rose by 1.2 million between 2000 and 2001, to 240.9 million, but at the same time the number of uninsured rose by 1.4 million, reaching 41.2 million, according to numbers from the Census Bureau. In addition, an estimated 14.6% of the population had no health insurance coverage during all of 2001, up from 14.2% in 2000.

"The percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance dropped a point, to 62.6% in 2001," said Robert Mills, author of "Health Insurance Coverage: 2001." "That was the principal cause of the overall decrease in health insurance coverage."

Mills said the increase in the number of people who were insured could be attributed to overall population growth.

Other highlights

The report also found that:


•Â The number of people covered by government health insurance programs rose significantly between 2000 and 2001. This resulted largely from an increase in the percentage of people covered by Medicaid (from 10.6% to 11.2%).


•Â Although Medicaid insured 13.3 million poor people, 10.1 million poor people had no health insurance in 2001.


•Â Young adults (18 to 24 years old) remained the least likely of any age group to have health insurance in 2001. Nearly 72% of this age group had coverage.


•Â Based on three-year averages, American Indians and Alaska Natives were the least likely of the major racial groups to have health insurance.


•Â Based on three-year averages, the proportion of people without health insurance ranged from around 7.2% in Rhode Island and Minnesota to around 23.2% in New Mexico and Texas.


•Â Compared with 2000, the proportion of people who had employment-based policies fell for workers at firms with fewer than 25 employees, but was unchanged for those employed by larger firms.

Small employers at risk

The Washington-based Health Insurance Association of America said the jump in the percentage of uninsured should serve as a "cautionary flag" to legislators. In particular, the HIAA warned about the vulnerability of small employers.

"It is particularly important to note that the decrease in the number of people with employer-sponsored health insurance occurred entirely in small firms of less than 25 employees," said Donald Young, president of the HIAA. "Small employers are the most vulnerable to economic downturns or rising prices. Legislators should think very carefully about establishing new regulations and mandates that, no matter how well intentioned, inevitably raise the cost of health insurance and make it more difficult for employers to continue to provide this vital benefit and for employees to be able to afford it." PR

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