Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2002 Current Population Survey

December 2002
EBRI Issue Brief #252
Paperback, 32 pp.
PDF, 233 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2002

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Executive Summary

  • This Issue Brief provides summary data on the insured and uninsured populations in the nation and in each state. It discusses the characteristics most closely related to an individual's health insurance status. Based on EBRI estimates from the March 2002 Current Population Survey (CPS), it represents 2001 data.
  • In 2001, reversing a brief trend that started about the end of 1998, the percentage of Americans with health insurance decreased: 83.5 percent of nonelderly Americans were covered by some form of health insurance in 2001, down from 83.9 percent in 2000. The percentage of nonelderly Americans without health insurance coverage increased from 16.1 percent in 2000 to 16.5 percent in 2001.
  • The main reason for the increase in the number of uninsured Americans in 2001 was the weak economy coupled with the rising cost of providing health benefits. Between 2000 and 2001, the percentage of nonelderly Americans covered by employment-based health insurance decreased from 67.1 percent to 65.6 percent.
  • In 2001, 37.9 million Americans received health insurance from public programs, and an additional 16.4 million purchased it directly from an insurer. More than 28 million Americans participated in Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and 6.6 million received their health insurance through the Tricare and CHAMPVA programs and other government programs designed to provide coverage for retired military members and their families.
  • While the combination of a growing economy in the 1990s and the lowest unemployment rates in more than 25 years finally had an impact on the uninsured in 1999 and 2000, the more recent weakened economy, rising unemployment, and increasing cost of providing health benefits have contributed to the erosion in employment-based health benefits and the increase in the uninsured between 2000 and 2001. If current economic conditions persist or worsen, coupled with the rising cost of providing health benefits, they will likely continue to result in fewer Americans with employment-based health benefits and more Americans without health insurance coverage. Should the uninsured population continue to increase by 0.4 percentage points as it did between 2000 and 2001, 46 million nonelderly Americans would be uninsured by 2005 and 53 million would be uninsured by 2010. Should the uninsured reach 20 percent of the nonelderly population, 51 million Americans would be uninsured by 2005.