Number of Insured Increases, Income Remains Level

August 26, 2004 ( - The number of people with health insurance coverage rose slightly from 2002 to 2003, while income levels remained unchanged.

In 2003, 243.3 million people had health insurance coverage, up from 242.2 million in 2002.   Despite this increase however,   the percentage of citizens with coverage dropped from 84.8% to 84.4%, mirroring a drop in the percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance (61.3% in 2002 to 60.4% in 2003), according to data supplied by the Census Bureau.

The decline in employment-based health insurance coverage essentially explains the drop in total private health insurance coverage, from 69.6% in 2002 to 68.6% in 2003.   While private health insurance coverage dropped, the percentage of people covered by government health insurance programs rose in 2003, from 25.7% to 26.6%, largely as the result of increases in Medicaid and Medicare coverage, the Census Bureau said. Medicaid coverage rose 0.7% to 12.4% in 2003, and Medicare coverage increased 0.2% to 13.7%.

Breaking the results down by racial profile, the uninsured rate did not change for blacks (19.5%) or Asians (18.7%) between 2002 and 2003.   Non-Hispanics who reported white as their only race saw their uninsured rate increase from 10.7% to 11.1%, while the uninsured rate for Hispanics, who may be of any race, was 32.7% in 2003 — unchanged from 2002, the Census Bureau found.

The proportion of the foreign-born population without health insurance (34.5%) was about two-and-a-half times that of the native population (13.0%) in 2003.

Across the country, the South was the only region to show an increase in its uninsured rate in 2003, up from 17.5% in 2002 to 18%. The health insurance coverage rates of people in the South and in the West (17.6%) were not different in 2003, while the percentages for the Northeast and Midwest were 12.9% and 12%, respectively.

Responding to the results, US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said now is the time to for the federal government to help businesses offer health insurance to their workforce. “Today’s report shows once again why it’s so important for Congress to quickly pass legislation giving small business workers better access to quality, affordable health insurance through Association Health Plans (AHPs),” Chao said in a statement.  “AHPs would allow small businesses to band together to purchase health insurance at lower rates and gain the same access to affordable, secure coverage that union members and workers at larger businesses enjoy.”

Income Figures

Real median income for the nation remained unchanged between 2002 and 2003 for all types of family and nonfamily households.   The figure for men age 15 and older who worked full-time, year-round in 2003 ($40,668) remained unchanged from 2002, while women with similar work experience saw their earnings decline — 0.6% to $30,724 — their first annual decline since 1995. As a result, the ratio of female-to-male earnings for full-time, year-round workers was 76 cents for every dollar in 2003, down from 77 cents for every dollar in 2002.

The only racial group that experienced a real decline in median income was Hispanic households who saw a real decline in median income of 2.6% between 2002 and 2003.   Real median income did not change between 2002 and 2003 for non-Hispanic white households (about $48,000), black households (about $30,000) or Asian households (about $55,500).

Native households had a real median income in 2003 ($44,347), not different from that in 2002. Foreign-born households experienced a real decline of 3.5 percent to $37,499.

Across the country, real median household income remained unchanged between 2002 and 2003 in three of the four census regions — Northeast ($46,742), Midwest ($44,732) and West ($46,820). The exception was the South, where income declined 1.5%. Additionally, the South continued to have the lowest median household income of all four regions ($39,823).

The estimates in the health insurance and income report are based on the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Annual Social and Economic Supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS ASEC), which is conducted in February, March and April at about 100,000 addresses nationwide.   More complete results are available at .