New Health Insurance Data on The Uninsured

Armen Hareyan's picture

Lack of Health Insurance Coverage

Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population and almost 29 percent of the uninsured. More than one in three Hispanics is uninsured, and 25 percent has only public health insurance, according to the government's leading health expenditure survey. In addition, Hispanics constitute 36 percent of all uninsured children under 18.

The 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) findings released today by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provide data on the uninsured, including detailed breakdowns by subpopulation groups. These breakdowns are intended to help policymakers and others understand health insurance status in detail.

According to the 2004 health insurance survey, for adults under age 65:

  • White non-Hispanics made up 65 percent of the U.S. population and almost 50 percent of the uninsured. About one in seven whites was uninsured, and 10 percent had only public insurance.

  • Black non-Hispanics made up almost 13 percent of the population and almost 15 percent of the uninsured. About one in five blacks was uninsured, and 28 percent had only public insurance.

"These results confirm the urgency of identifying effective policies to expand access to care for all Americans, particularly Hispanics," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "The MEPS is a unique resource for evaluating the impact of proposed solutions for different populations."


Findings on uninsured Americans in a given year are often presented in three ways: people uninsured for a full year, those ever uninsured during a year, and those uninsured for a specific point in time. The MEPS provides data for all three categories and also covers a 2-year period. The data provided in this most recent MEPS release reflect insurance status for a specific point in time: the first part of 2004.

Additional MEPS data from the first part of 2004 on health insurance show:

  • For the population under age 65, 19 percent (48 million) were estimated to be without health insurance.

  • For children under age 18, nearly 12 percent (8.5 million) were uninsured. These most recent estimates of children without health insurance were significantly lower than estimates from the previous decade, mostly due to public insurance expansions aimed at children, including Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

  • Young adults aged 19-24 were at greatest risk of being uninsured, with 35 percent having no insurance coverage for the first part of 2004. Furthermore, this lack of coverage was worst for young Hispanic adults, with 56 percent uninsured.

Details about the uninsured are in several statistical briefs released by AHRQ, including The Uninsured in America, 2004: Estimates for the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population under Age 65, The Uninsured in America, 1996-2004: Estimates for the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population under Age 65, and Health Insurance Status of Children in America, 1996-2004: Estimates for the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population under Age 18. Furthermore, a set of charts illustrating more detailed summaries of the data mentioned in this release can be found at.

About MEPS: AHRQ's expenditure survey collects information each year from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households about health care use, expenses, access, health insurance coverage, health status and quality. It is unique in its degree of detail and in its ability to link data on health spending and health insurance to various characteristics of individuals and families. People surveyed by MEPS are followed for 2 consecutive years, providing additional depth and value to its data, especially in differentiating between short-term lack of insurance and persistent lack of insurance.

About federal health insurance surveys: Information about health insurance status is collected as a part of several different federal surveys. As part of broader surveys, these efforts examine different aspects of the problem, while also providing the benefit of validation for one another's findings. The data provided today reflect insurance status for a specific period of time. By comparison, the often-cited health insurance data provided as part of the Census Bureau's annual Current Population Survey are estimates for full-year lack of insurance.

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