EBRI Issue Brief

Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 1996 Current Population Survey

Nov 1, 1996 28  pages


  • This Issue Brief provides summary data on the insured and uninsured populations in the nation and in each state. It discusses the way health protection has changed for the insured, how the states rank in health insurance protection, and the characteristics most closely related to whether or not an individual is likely to have health insurance. The report is based on Employee Benefit Research Institute analysis of the March 1996 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) and represents the most recent data available.
  • In 1995, there were 231.9 million civilian, nonelderly Americans in the United States, 163.9 million (70.7 percent) of whom were covered by private health insurance. Almost 148 million individuals (63.8 percent) were covered by an employment-based plan. Over 38.4 million individuals (16.6 percent) were covered by publicly financed health insurance, and 29 million (12.5 percent) were covered by Medicaid.
  • In 1995, 17.4 percent of the nonelderly population, or 40.3 million individuals, were not covered by health insurance. This is an increase from 39.4 million, or 17.1 percent, in 1994. In general, the percentage of the population without health insurance has been increasing. In 1988, 15.2 percent of the U.S. population was uninsured.
  • The 104th Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 in the interest of making health care more portable and affordable. Additional legislation was passed addressing mental health benefits and maternity length of stay. These bills will do little to decrease the size of the uninsured population. They include provisions for group-to-group portability, group-to-individual portability, an increase in the self-employed health deduction, medical savings accounts, mental health parity, and minimum length-of-stay requirements for childbirth. These provisions in large part benefit individuals who already have health insurance. They do not directly address the larger problem of its affordability.
  • Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation indicate that 50.7 million individuals lacked health insurance coverage for at least one month during calendar year 1992. Approximately 43 percent were uninsured between one and four months. The median spell without health insurance was six months. These data would seem to indicate that even though many individuals may lose health insurance during any given month, the majority are uninsured for a short period of time.