EBRI Issue Brief

Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2001 Current Population Survey

Dec 1, 2001 32  pages


  • 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 2001 Current Population Survey (CPS), it represents 2000 data—the most recent available.
  • Between 1999 and 2000, the percentage of Americans with health insurance increased: 84.1 percent of nonelderly Americans were covered by some form of health insurance in 2000, up from 83.8 percent in 1999. The percentage of nonelderly Americans without health insurance coverage declined from 16.2 percent in 1999 to 15.9 percent in 2000, continuing a trend that started between 1998 and 1999.
  • The main reason for the decline in the number of uninsured Americans was the strong economy and low unemployment. Between 1999 and 2000, the percentage of nonelderly Americans covered by employment-based health insurance increased from 66.6 percent to 67.3 percent, continuing a longer-term trend that started between 1993 and 1994.
  • In 2000, 34.3 million Americans received health insurance from public programs, and an additional 16.1 million purchased it directly from an insurer. More than 25 million Americans participated in Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and 6.1 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.
  • Even though the number and percentage of uninsured declined substantially between 1998 and 2000, more than 38 million Americans remain uninsured. While an increasing percentage of Americans were being covered by employment-based health plans, this trend may not continue because of the combined re-emergence of health care cost inflation and the weak economy. As long as the economy is strong and unemployment is low, employment-based health insurance coverage will expand and the uninsured will decline gradually. However, the combination of the current weak economy and the rising cost of providing health benefits will likely result in more Americans without health insurance coverage. Should the uninsured remain unchanged and continue to represent 15.9 percent of the nonelderly population, 40 million would be uninsured by 2005. If the uninsured represented 25 percent of the population, 63 million would be uninsured in 2005 and 65 million nonelderly Americans would be uninsured by 2010.