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Prognosis Worsens for Workers' Health Care

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Publication Date: October 2005

Publisher(s): Economic Policy Institute

Author(s): Elise Gould

Topic: Health (Health care financing)

Type: Brief


The number of people without health insurance grew significantly for the fourth year in a row. Nearly 46 million Americans were uninsured in 2004--up six million since 2000. The rate of those without insurance for the whole year has grown 1.5 percentage points during this period, from 14.2% in 2000 to 15.7% in 2004.

What the overall uninsured numbers mask, however, is a distinct shift from insurance coverage through the private sector to insurance coverage through the public sector, particularly for children. The safety net health programs--Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)-- have kept millions of families insured when their employment-based benefits were lost.

The percent of people with employer-provided health insurance also fell for the fourth year in a row. Nearly 3.7 million fewer people had employer-provided insurance in 2004 than in 2000. However, that decline in the number of people with employer-provided insurance does not take into account population growth. As many as 11 million more people would have had employer-provided health insurance in 2004 if the coverage rate had remained at the 2000 level. The rate during this period declined from 63.6% to 59.8% (a 3.8 percentage-point drop). At the same time, the Medicaid rolls (including SCHIP) have increased by nearly eight million, with a coverage increase of 2.3 percentage points.