Doctors' Views

A Million More Americans Without Health Insurance

An estimated 44.3 million people in the United States, or 16.3 percent of the population, had no health insurance in 1998 -- an increase of about 1 million people since 1997, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

"Those more likely to lack health insurance continue to include young adults in the 18- to 24-year-old age group, people with lower levels of education, people of Hispanic origin, those who work part time and people born in another country," said Jennifer Campbell, author of "Health Insurance Coverage: 1998."

The Numbers

The status of children's health-care coverage did not change significantly from 1997 to 1998, with 11.1 million, or 15.4 percent, of all children under age 18 uninsured.

Other highlights from the Census Bureau report include the following:

  • The proportion of the population without health insurance fell in eight states (Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Tennessee).
  • The proportion of the population without health insurance rose in 16 states (Alabama, Alaska, California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming).
  • Children 12-to-17 years of age were slightly more likely to be without health-care coverage (16.0 percent) than those under age 12 (15.1 percent).
  • About one-half (47.5 percent) of poor full-time workers did not have health insurance in 1998.
  • The Medicaid program insured 14.0 million poor people, but about one-third of all poor people (11.2 million) had no health insurance.
  • The proportion of people without health insurance ranged from 8.3 percent among those in households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, to 25.2 percent among those in households with less than $25,000 in income.
  • A higher proportion of the foreign-born population (34.1 percent) was without health insurance than of the native population (14.4 percent).
  • The proportion without health insurance was higher for Hispanics (35.3 percent) than for non-Hispanic Whites (11.9 percent).


The rise in the number of Americans without health insurance in 1998 is particularly notable because it occurred in a year when the U.S. economy was strong.

It is also notable that the status of children's health-care coverage did not change significantly despite a new law designed to provide health insurance coverage for children.

The new Census Bureau data indicate that the attempts to expand health insurance coverage on a national basis have been ineffectual.

Source: The data cited here are from the March 1999 Current Population Survey issued by the US Census Bureau of the United States Department of Commerce. The Census Bureau states that: "Statistics from sample surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling errors."

Last Editorial Review: 10/4/1999

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