Lack of health insurance coverage continues to be national epidemic

June 26, 2006 ( - The percentage of uninsured Americans equaled 14.2% of the population or 41.2 million Americans in 2005, a 1.2% decrease since 1997, according to statistics published Wednesday by the nation's principal health statistics agency.

The survey, conducted by the Washington-based National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), revealed a more sizeable decrease in the percentage of uninsured U.S. children, which shrunk from 13.9% in 1997 to 8.9% in 2005.

Health-insurance coverage, which relies mostly on employers to cover workers, is a problem that has long afflicted lower-income families and continues to be a hotly debated issue in America. Families with incomes under $20,000 suffer the most from lack of insurance, according to findings from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey. But the number of people without health insurance, with   increasing numbers of uninsured moderate- and middle-income American families, has climbedwith rising health care costs, raising concerns about the ability of U.S. families to obtain timely medical care and save for retirement.   

The NCHS study is based on a survey of more than 98,000 people. The NCHS, a sector of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that insurance coverage varied widely among states, from 6% without health insurance in Massachusetts to more than 24% lacking insurance coverage in Texas.

According to the report, 40% more adults and 50.5% more children had private insurance coverage instead of public coverage, such as the State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare or Medicaid.  

The survey also indicated an increasing trend in the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among adults, which increased from 5.1% in 1997 to 7.4% in 2006. But the number of reported asthma cases has had a more static trend, mirroring the 1997 percentage of 4.2%.