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Record 46.6M U.S. Residents Lack Health Insurance in 2005

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Health Insurance in USA

The number of U.S. residents without health insurance increased by 1.3 million in 2005 to a record 46.6 million individuals, or 15.9% of the U.S. population, compared with 45.3 million individuals, or 15.6% of the population, in 2004, according to figures from the U.S. Census Current Population Survey released on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The data show that almost one in six U.S. residents was uninsured in 2005 (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30). The number of U.S. residents with health insurance increased by 1.4 million to 247.3 million in 2005, according to the report (Benjamin/Young, Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/30). In addition, the report finds that the percentage of U.S. residents with employer-sponsored health coverage decreased from 59.8% in 2004 to 59.5% in 2005, the lowest percentage since 1993 (Appleby, USA Today, 8/30). By comparison, in 2001, 14.6% of U.S. residents were uninsured, and 62.6% had employer-sponsored coverage (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30). The report also finds that:

  • The percentage of U.S. residents with coverage through government programs remained constant in 2004 and 2005 at 27.3% (USA Today, 8/30);

  • The percentage of U.S. residents with any form of private coverage decreased to 67.7% in 2005, compared with 68.2% in 2004 (Havemann/Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 8/30);

  • The percentage of U.S. residents who purchased private health insurance outside of their jobs decreased to 9.1% in 2005, compared with 9.3% in 2004;

  • The percentage of U.S. children without health insurance increased to 11.2% in 2005, compared with 10.8% in 2004 (USA Today, 8/30);

  • A total of slightly more than 8.3 million U.S. children did not have health insurance in 2005 (Los Angeles Times, 8/30);

  • Minnesota had the lowest percentage of uninsured state residents at 8.7%, and Texas had the highest at 24.6% (Glauber/Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/29);

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  • 32.7% of Hispanics, 11.3% of non-Hispanic whites and 19.6% of African Americans did not have health insurance in 2005 (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30);

  • Almost 80% of the uninsured in 2005 were U.S. citizens (Los Angeles Times, 8/30);

  • About 961,000 of the 1.3 million increase in the number of people uninsured was among full-time workers; and

  • In households with annual incomes of at least $50,000, 17 million U.S. residents did not have health insurance in 2005, an increase of 1.5 million from 2004 (Graham, Chicago Tribune, 8/30).

The report finds that the rise in the uninsured occurred as the percentage of people living in poverty remained constant at 12.4%, while median household income rose for the first time since 1999, Bloomberg/Inquirer reports (Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/30).

Comments on Health Insurance Data
Laurence Baker, associate professor of health research and policy at Stanford University, said, "Health care costs are increasing, and that is making employers think harder about the kinds of benefit they can offer" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30). Peter Cunningham, senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change, said, "It's especially worrisome because if we get into another economic downturn, there will be even fewer people with access to employer coverage or fewer who can afford it." Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute said the unemployment rate - which has fallen in the last two years and was 4.8% in July - might not be low enough to create an increase in employer-sponsored coverage. "In order to see a turnaround in those uninsured numbers, we'll need to see an unemployment rate in the neighborhood of 4% to 4.5%," Fronstin said (USA Today, 8/30). Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, said "the most disturbing thing" about the figures is that the number of children without health insurance increased for the first time in years (Goldstein/Keating, Washington Post, 8/30). Ken Thorpe, a professor at Emory University who was deputy assistant secretary for policy at HHS from 1993 through 1995, said, "We've had absolutely no federal effort or interest in insuring the uninsured since 2000. This has not been a priority of the Bush administration." Thorpe added, "Due to the rising cost of health care and health care insurance, you see a continued decline in workers accepting coverage when it's offered and employers offering it" (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/29). Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, said, "The government needs to stop throwing money at the problem and maybe our uninsured problem will begin to recede," adding that health savings accounts could be a part of a solution (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/30). Katherine Swartz, an economist at Harvard University, said HSAs "are not increasing the number of people with health insurance" (Los Angeles Times, 8/30).

Political Impact
According to the Post, Republican lawmakers mostly "were silent about the health insurance figures" (Washington Post, 8/30). David Mayhew, a congressional scholar at Yale University, said, "The media and Democrats are waiting for this kind of information, and they'll use it" in the elections (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/29). House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) said, "More people in America have health coverage today than at any time in our nation's history" (Chicago Tribune, 8/30). Barton said a new law is needed that would allow U.S. residents to purchase health insurance in any state, regardless of their place of residence. "Plenty of working families may simply not want coverage for acupuncture, massage therapy and other kinds of care that their states mandate," he said in a statement. Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) has introduced a bill (HR 2355) that would allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines (Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/30).