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Covering for the UnInsured

by Washington DC Office of Public Policy

Contact: Office of Public Policy GBGM-Women's Division 100 Maryland Avenue, NE Room 530 Washington, DC 20002 (202)488-5660 Fax:(202) 488-5681
Office of Public Policy
GBGM-Women's Division
100 Maryland Avenue, NE Room 530
Washington, DC 20002
Fax:(202) 488-5681

Coverage for the Uninsured

A large majority of individuals have experienced first hand the rise in health care costs.  Many people are now faced with paying higher insurance premiums, paying a larger portion of their health care bills or losing health care coverage all together.  Some individuals and families never have had the privilege of having health care insurance; even if it has meant that not having it could lead to serious health problems and risks.

The common myth is that a large majority of people who do not have health care coverage are unemployed.  According to the organization CoveringtheUninsured.org, 8 out of 10 uninsured Americans are from working families and more than half are in families that earn low wages.[1]  People who earn low wages cannot afford private health insurance and earn too much to qualify for public programs such as Medicaid.  “Nearly a third of the nation’s poor, about 10.1 million people living at or below the federal poverty level, had no health insurance in 2001.  People with incomes at or below poverty make up nearly a quarter of the uninsured.”[2]

“The U.S. spent $1.4 trillion on health care in 2001, yet 41.2 million Americans lacked basic health coverage.”[3]  According to the United States Census Bureau, an estimated 15.2% of the population had no health insurance coverage during all of the year of 2002.[4]  Also in 2002, 11.6% of all children, or 8.5 million children, did not have insurance coverage.[5]  There are many reasons why so many individuals do not have health care coverage.  The largest contributing factor to this is the state of the economy.  During slow economic times, health care coverage is one of the first benefits that are usually cut.  Rising health care costs are also another contributing factor.  “Between 2000 and 2001, premiums for employer-sponsored benefits grew an average of 11 percent-the largest increase since 1992.”[6]  These factors are a few of the major contributing factors to the rise in the number of uninsured people. 

Income Breakdown of the Uninsured

  • 10.1 million uninsured people have family incomes at or below the federal poverty level; this group comprises a quarter of all uninsured people
  • 14.5 million have incomes under $25,000
  • 13.5 million have incomes between $25,000 and $49,999
  • 6.6 million have incomes between $50,000 and $74,999
  • 6.6 million have incomes that are at least $75,000

Here is a breakdown of average policy prices:

  • The annual total cost for an average health policy at work was $2,426 for an individual and $7,035 for a family policy in 2000.
  • The average premium paid directly by employee for employer-based insurance was $28 a month for individual coverage and $138 a month for family coverage in 2000.
  • A non-group policy for a family typically costs more than employment-based insurance and/or provides poorer benefits.

Statistics taken from the CoveringTheUninured.org website

Health care coverage for children has been on the rise in recent years.  Public health care programs such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) have played an important role in this increase because they have expanded their coverage to low-income children.  Unfortunately, these programs are still not adequate enough.  Research conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that most parents whose uninsured children qualify for such government programs were not aware that these programs were available to them.  The complicated and cumbersome process of enrollment and staying in these programs has also contributed to the loss of coverage.[7]  Despite the availability of these programs, 8.5 million children were still uninsured in 2002.  “In 2001, poor children whose family incomes were at or below the federal poverty level made up 29.3 percent of all uninsured children-about 2.5 million.  Nearly three quarters of families with uninsured children do not have access to an employer-provided health coverage plan.  Eight of 10 uninsured children live in households where at least one of the adults is working.”[8] 

According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, people who are most likely to be uninsured are people who earn low incomes, have less education, are Hispanic, and are between the ages of 18 to 24 years old.  About 30 percent of all uninsured adults do not have a high school diploma.   More than a third of the nation’s 37 million Hispanics are uninsured and nearly 7 million or about 20 percent of the nation’s 36 million African-Americans are uninsured.  29 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 do not have health insurance.[9]  The Census Bureau states, “the proportion of people who did not have health insurance ranged from about 8.0 percent in Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Iowa to 24.1 percent in Texas…New Mexico was the only state where the coverage fell, while the proportion rose in 18 states, based on comparisons of two-year averages.”[10]  Over 80 percent of uninsured children reside in metropolitan areas.[11]

Lack of health care coverage affects everyone in society.  Families and individuals who don’t have health care coverage are less likely to have regular care which is needed for long term health and are more likely to wait longer to seek treatment for ailments which can be more costly and hazardous to their health.  Families with children without health care coverage are less likely to give their children the regular health care they need.  “More than one in five families without health insurance for the whole year who have incomes at or below the federal poverty level have out-of-pocket expenses that exceed 5 percent of their income.”[12] Emergency rooms are seeing an increase in the number of ER visits, due partly to greater numbers of uninsured individuals seeking care.  “The National Health Policy Forum stated that 75% of all ER visits that do not result in admissions are for non-emergencies that should be treated elsewhere.”[13]  Emergency room care costs can be very high.  In many instances, hospitals and taxpayers are left to cover the remaining costs.   


  • Read Book of Resolutions 2000, #103 Universal Access to Health Care, pp.278-281.

  • Cover the Uninsured Week is May 10-16, 2004.  Various events will be held across the country, including health and enrollment fairs for uninsured Americans, and health coverage seminars for small business owners, during this week.  To find out more about these events or to organize an event in your community contact www.CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org by telephone at (202) 572-2928, by mail at 1010 Wisconsin Ave., NW Suite 800, Washington, DC 20007, or by e-mail at Info@CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org
  • In late January 2004, the West Virginia State House and Senate adopted House Concurrent Resolution 9 which “Urges the Legislature to set a goal of providing all citizens of the state of West Virginia with comprehensive, quality and affordable health care and advising its citizens on how to obtain such services.”  Last fall a campaign was launched in Massachusetts to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to ensure every resident has access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance.  The campaign workers collected over 71,000 signatures from voters from 343 cities and towns across Massachusetts clearing some of the steps required for a hearing on a constitutional amendment.  A hearing has been scheduled for April and a vote is expected by the end of July.[14]  What is your state doing about the uninsured?  Write to us and tell us about the actions your state is taking to ensure that everyone has health care coverage.  If your state has not passed any Universal Health Care legislation, write to your state legislators and urge them to pass legislation that will ensure that comprehensive, quality and affordable health care be available to everyone in your state. 

  • Write to your Congressional Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor House Resolution 676, or the United States National Health Insurance Act.  This bill would establish the United States National Health Insurance Program which would provide all individuals residing in the United States (including U.S. territories) with health care.  To learn more about this bill contact your Congressional Representative or visit the Library of Congress website at http://thomas.lov.gov and type in H.R.676.      

[1]CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 
April 2004

[2] CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 

[3]CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 

>[4]U.S. Department of Commerce News. 
Numbers of Americans With and Without Health Insurance Rise,
Census Bureau Reports
.  September 30, 2003. 

[5]U.S Census Bureau.  Health Insurance Coverage: 2002.

[6]CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 

[7]CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet

[8]CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 

[9]CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 

[10]U.S. Department of Commerce News. 
Numbers of Americans With and Without Health Insurance Rise, Census Bureau Reports

September 30, 2003. 

[11] Ibid

[12] CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 

[13] CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org Factsheet. 

[14] Action for Universal health Care Newsletter,
Volume 12, Number 1. February – March 2004.

Date posted: Apr 27, 2004