Most of the uninsured, a number that works out to one out of three Americans under 65 years of age,lacked coverage for lengthy periods of time: Almost two-thirds (65.3%) were uninsured for six months or more and over half (50.6%) were uninsured for at least nine months, according to Americans Without Health Insurance, 2002-2003 report issued by health consumer organization Families USA.The study involved people under 65 because the elderly are covered by the federal health insurance plan Medicare.
“One out of three non-elderly Americans without health insurance constitutes an enormous epidemic that requires immediate attention,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “It is high time that this problem rises to the top of our national agenda.”
By comparison, the Census Bureau’s data, which Families USA bases its results on, estimated there were 43.6 million uninsured people in the United States in 2002. Families USA says the Census Bureau’s data does not adequately represent the uninsured population because it does not report Americans that are uninsured only part of the year.
The proportion of uninsured is higher in 14 sates, where more than one out of three people went without health insurance for at least part of the reporting period. Topping the list was Texas, where 42.4% of the state’s under 65 residents went without health-care coverage at least part of the year, followed by:
- New Mexico (42.4%)
- California (37.1%)
- Nevada (36.8%)
- Louisiana (36.2%)
- Arizona (35.7%)
- Mississippi (35.1%)
- Oklahoma (35%)
- Alaska (35%)
- Florida (34.6%)
- Arkansas (34.4%)
- Idaho (33.8%)
- North Carolina (33.7%)
- New York (33.4%).
Similarly, the 10 states with the largest number of uninsured people contained many of the same names: California (11.9 million), Texas (8.5 million), New York (5.6 million), Florida (4.8 million), Illinois (3.5 million), Pennsylvania (2.8 million), Ohio (2.8 million), Michigan (2.5 million), Georgia (2.5 million), and North Carolina (2.4 million). While the number of uninsured may be surprising, the states are not, given that the list nearly mirrors the states with the greatest populations.
Broken down along socio-economic lines, the report found the great majority (84.5%) of the uninsured group were “connected to the workforce” in December 2003 – 78.8% were employed and 5.7% were actively seeking employment. Even though Families USA found “the likelihood of being uninsured decreases considerably as income increases,” income level alone does not guarantee coverage. A quarter (25.2%) of workers with incomes between 300% and 400% of the federal poverty level – from $55,980 to $74,040 a year for a family of four in 2003 – were uninsured.
Hispanics, the nation’s largest minority group, had the highest rate of uninsured.Families USA found 59.5% of Hispanics and 42.9% of African Americans were uninsured, compared to 23.5% of white, non-Hispanics. By proportion of the total, though, non-Hispanic whites made up the greatest percentage of the uninsured population (48.1%), followed by Hispanics (27.4%), Blacks (16.8%) and Others (7.7%).
A copy of the full report is available here.