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Census data show rise in uninsured population.

WASHINGTON -- The number of people in the United States without health insurance rose to 45 million in 2003, U.S. Census Bureau data show.

The increase from 2002 to 2003 amounted to 1.4 million uninsured Americans, with the percentage of uninsured rising from 15.2% to 15.6% of the population, according to the bureau's report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003.

The bureau cited a decline in employer-based health insurance as a key factor. The number of people covered by employer-based plans fell from 175 million (61.3%) in 2002 to 174 million (60.4%) in 2003. That change overshadowed a slight uptick in government-sponsored coverage.

Still, being employed does seem to improve one's chances of getting coverage. Among people 18-64 years of age in 2003, 82.5% of those with full-time jobs had health insurance, compared with 76.2% of part-time workers and 74% of nonworkers.

Even so, the uninsured rate for those working full time increased from nearly 16.8% in 2002 to 17.5% in 2003.

The decline in employer-based coverage was partially offset by a rise in the number of people with government-sponsored insurance, from 73.6 million (25.7%) in 2002 to 76.8 million (26.6%) in 2003. Medicare coverage increased by 0.2%, while Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) coverage increased 0.7% over this time period.

Dr. J. Edward Hill, president-elect of the American Medical Association, maintained that Congress could do better to help the uninsured. The data "highlight the urgent need for action," he said in a statement. "Our 45 million patients without health insurance deserve better."

At its annual meeting in June, AMA delegates approved language to urge congressional support for tax credits and other state-based initiatives that would provide health coverage to low-income patients.

The uninsured rate among blacks, Asians, and Hispanics did not change from the year before, but the rate increased among non-Hispanic whites, from 10.7% (20.8 million) in 2002 to 11.1% (21.6 million) in 2003.

BY JENNIFER SILVERMAN

Associate Editor, Practice Trends
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Title Annotation:Practice Trends
Author:Silverman, Jennifer
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 15, 2004
Words:350
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