EBRI Issue Brief

Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 1992 Current Population Survey

Jan 1, 1993 33  pages


  • Eighty-three percent of nonelderly Americans and 99 percent of elderly Americans (aged 65 and over) were covered by either public or private health insurance in 1991, according to EBRI tabulations of the March 1992 Current Population Survey (CPS). The March 1992 CPS is the most recent data available on the number and characteristics of uninsured Americans.
  • In 1991, 16.6 percent of the nonelderly population—or 36.3 million people—were not covered by private health insurance and did not receive publicly financed health assistance. This number compares with 35.7 million in 1990 (16.6 percent), 34.4 million in 1989 (16.1 percent), and 33.6 million in 1988 (15.9 percent).
  • The most important determinant of health insurance coverage is employment. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the nonelderly have employment-based coverage. Workers were much more likely to be covered by group health plans than nonworkers (71 percent versus 40 percent).
  • Even though workers and members of their families were more likely to be covered by health insurance than nonworkers, 85 percent of the uninsured lived in families headed by workers in 1991, primarily because most people live in families headed by workers. More than 60 percent of the uninsured were in families headed by full-year workers with no unemployment.
  • Nearly all persons who were covered by an employment based-plan received at least some contribution to that plan from their employer. The estimated average annual contribution among those receiving a contribution to employee or family plans was $2,129.
  • Although many individuals in poor families are covered by public health plans, that coverage is far from universal. In 1991, only 52 percent of the nonelderly with income below the poverty line were covered by a public plan—49 percent by Medicaid.
  • The number of children who were uninsured in 1991 was 9.5 million, or 14.7 percent to of all children, compared with 9.8 million or 15.3 percent of all children in 1990. Twenty-three percent of children were covered by public health insurance, with 21 percent being covered by Medicaid.
  • In 11 states and the District of Columbia, more than 20 percent of the population was uninsured in 1991. These states and their uninsured rates were the District of Columbia (30.3 percent), Texas (25.3 percent), New Mexico (24.5 percent), Louisiana (23.8 percent), Florida (23.5 percent), Mississippi (22.1 percent), Oklahoma (22.1 percent), Nevada (21.8 percent), California (21.7 percent), Arizona (21.1 percent), Alabama (20.6 percent), and Idaho (20.6 percent).