Census Reports Increase in Uninsured

Published October 1, 2006

In late August, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual numbers on the country’s income and poverty levels and health insurance coverage.

The first two measures, income and poverty, brought relatively good news: Annual median household income increased by 1.1 percent between 2004 and 2005 (to $46,326), and poverty rates leveled off after four years of consecutive increases.

The news on health insurance coverage, by contrast, was a double negative. Not only did the number of those living without health insurance at some point during the year increase–from 45.3 million in 2004 to 46.6 million in 2005–but the percentage of the population “going bare” for some period of time increased as well, from 15.6 percent to 15.9 percent.

Rising Numbers

For the past few years, some economists have hoped the economic recovery might stem or reverse the trend of increasing numbers of uninsured. For a while, the percentage figure held steady, but the new statistics indicate an overall weakening of insurance protection that mirrors other news on health coverage issues.

Health Insurance Coverage by Age


% Uncovered

Number Uninsured

Under 18


8.3 million



8.6 million



10.4 million



8 million



6.5 million



4.2 million

65 & Older


459 thousand

Source: “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005

Additional signs of distress in the census numbers include a smaller share of those with insurance being covered by employer-sponsored coverage: 59.5 percent, down from 59.8 percent in 2004. In addition, the U.S. Labor Bureau reported the following:

  • A smaller share of employers are offering coverage (62 percent, down from 63 percent).
  • Premiums are increasing for workers. In 2006, workers paid an average monthly premium of $76, up from $69 in 2005. Families paid $296, up from $273.
  • Employees’ average share of premium prices also has increased, by about 5 percent over last year.

Concerned Executives

Mary Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council–a Washington, DC-based organization that represents hospitals, health plans, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, biotech firms, health product distributors, pharmacies, and academic health centers–said the CEOs of the nation’s largest health care companies are very concerned about the uninsured.

“This issue resonates throughout our health care system, our economy, and our society,” Grealy said. “Action is urgently needed, beginning with steps such as refundable tax credits to make private health coverage more accessible for the millions of uninsured Americans connected to the workforce.”

Health care providers, including hospitals and physicians, are feeling daily the pressures of coping with the increases in the uninsured.

States with Highest Percentage of Uninsured



New Mexico








Source: “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005

“Every day physicians deal with the needs of patients who are suffering the medical, emotional, and financial consequences of going without health insurance,” said a spokesperson for the American Medical Association. “A health care tax credit would help many afford coverage.”

Delayed Action

The Maine Heritage Policy Center, a state think tank, said the census numbers were a sad commentary on the failure of Dirigo Health, a three-year-old state initiative designed to provide universal health insurance coverage, control costs, and ensure quality care. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.3 percent of Maine residents lacked health insurance in 2005, compared to 11.6 percent in 2004. Nationwide, the share of the under-65 population that is uninsured remained practically unchanged: 17.8 percent in 2004, 17.9 percent in 2005.

“The U.S. Census Bureau statistics clearly reveal that the current policies are not only failing to insure more Mainers but are actually driving more people from the insured rolls,” said Tarren Bragdon, director of health reform initiatives at the Maine Heritage Policy Center. “It is incumbent on Maine policymakers to accept this reality and move forward with proven reforms that will lower health insurance costs, allowing for more Mainers to afford coverage.”

Although the new census figures on the uninsured were released while members of Congress were back in their states for the August recess, it is likely those who have long advocated health policy reforms will use the new data to push their favorite solutions.

It appears highly unlikely, however, that Congress will find the political will and resources to do anything … at least until after November’s elections.

Laura Clay Trueman ([email protected]) is executive director of the Coalition for Affordable Health Coverage and senior director of Jefferson Government Relations, LLC.

For more information …

“Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2005,” the U.S. Census Bureau’s August 2006 report, is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to http://www.heartland.org, click on the PolicyBot™ button, and search for document #19675.