Being Uninsured Remains a "Crisis" of Income

10-Year Census Figures Show Health Insurance Often Is a Matter of Choice

DALLAS (August 30, 2005) – The number of Americans with health insurance grew by more than 2 million people last year, but the percentage of Americans without health insurance continues to grow among higher-income households, according to the latest report released today by the Census Bureau.

"Being uninsured in America is largely a matter of choice," said NCPA Senior Fellow Devon Herrick, who also compiled a 10-year analysis of Census Bureau figures. "The greatest and growing problem of the uninsured is among those families who can afford health insurance."

The number of uninsured among higher-income households continued to grow last year, even though the percentage of uninsured has remained stable, according to this year's Census report:

  • Between 1995 and 2004 (data for the 2005 report), the number of uninsured with family incomes of less than $50,000 actually fell by 8 percent. The number of uninsured in households earning less than $25,000 fell by an estimated 19 percent.
  • But over the same 10-year period in households earning $25,000 or more, nearly 90 percent of the increase in the uninsured has occurred among higher-income households ($50,000 or more). And the number of uninsured Americans in families earning more than $75,000 has increased by 153 percent.

"An alarming change over the past decade is the growth in the number of Americans who choose not to be insured," Herrick said. "Among low-income households the number of Americans without coverage has changed little."

  • 40.6 million Americans were uninsured in 1995, or 15.4 percent of the population. In this year's Census report, 15.7 percent of Americans (45.8 million) were without health insurance.
  • In addition, about 10 million of the uninsured have access to Medicaid and government-sponsored health care coverage, but have not enrolled.
  • Approximately one-third of foreign-born residents are without health insurance. In today's Census report that accounted for about one-fourth of the uninsured population.

Dr. Herrick's analysis found that the rise in the number of people with and without health insurance is mostly explained by growth in the overall population.