1 in 7 Americans Lack Health Insurance
Lack Greatest in Southwest; Private Health Coverage Dwindling Overall
June 25, 2008 -- One in seven Americans -- one in six Americans under age 65 -- do not have any kind of health insurance, the CDC reports.
Lack of health insurance is greatest in the Southwest and lowest in the Northeast, with huge variation -- by about 20% -- among the states.
"Overall, 43.1 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2007," CDC researcher Robin A. Cohen, PhD, tells WebMD. "Almost 54 million or 18.2% of Americans were uninsured for at least part of the year, and 30.6 million or 10.3% had been uninsured for more than a year at the time of interview."
The CDC's numbers come from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual in-person survey of U.S. civilians. The CDC today released two reports. One combines 2004-2006 data from the 41 states with at least 1,000 survey respondents. The other is based on preliminary 2007 survey data from the 20 largest states.
Among the survey findings:
- 56% of unemployed adults under age 65 lacked health insurance for at least part of 2007; 32% were uninsured for over a year.
- 22% of working adults lacked health insurance for at least part of 2007; 14% were uninsured for over a year.
- More than one in four 18- to 34-year-olds lack health insurance, with uninsurance rates higher for men than for women.
- A third of Hispanic-Americans lacked health insurance in 2007; about one-fourth were uninsured for over a year.
- In 2007, 37% of poor working-age adults had some kind of public health insurance and 25% had private insurance.
- Americans with less than a high school education were two to four times more likely to be uninsured than better-educated adults.
How important is health insurance to Americans? A Kaiser Foundation poll released today shows that health care is the fourth most important issue in the 2008 election -- only recently bumped from third place by rising gas prices.
Lack of Health Insurance Growing?
Are more Americans uninsured than in previous years? That depends on how you measure it. The CDC interview data suggest that the uninsurance rate has been relatively stable. But a 2006 Kaiser Foundation report, based on U.S. census data, suggests that the number of Americans without health insurance is steadily growing.
"The number of uninsured Americans has been growing," Kaiser researcher Catherine Hoffman, ScD, tells WebMD. "Even in the mid-1990s, when the economy was booming, we saw the number of uninsured Americans grew by about a million a year. And that is because there was never any control over health costs. We just don't have a solution."
High costs, Hoffman says, make private insurance more costly -- and decrease employer-sponsored insurance, the main source of insurance for over 60% of Americans under age 65.