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AHRQ Releases New Data on the Uninsured

AUGUST 11, 2005 -- More than one in three Hispanics is uninsured and one-quarter have only public health insurance, according to new government data.

Hispanics, who make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, comprise about 29 percent of the uninsured and constitute 36 percent of all uninsured children under age 18, according to federal data the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released Aug. 9. The agency analyzed data from the 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, including detailed breakdowns by subpopulation groups, to help policymakers and others understand health insurance status in detail.

Data also indicated that white non-Hispanics made up 65 percent of the population but less than 50 percent of the uninsured in 2004. About one in seven whites was uninsured and 10 percent had only public insurance, AHRQ reported. In addition, black non-Hispanics made up almost 13 percent of the population and almost 15 percent of the uninsured. About one in five blacks was uninsured and 28 percent had only public insurance.

"These results confirm the urgency of identifying effective policies to expand access to care for all American, particularly Hispanics," AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy said in a release.

Additional data from the first part of 2004 show that for the population under age 65, 19 percent or 48 million were estimated to be without health insurance. For children under age 18, nearly 12 percent or 8.5 million were uninsured—a figure significantly lower than estimates from the previous decade.

The decline in uninsured children was mostly due to public insurance expansions aimed at them, including Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, AHRQ officials said.

The figures also show that young adults aged 19–24 were at greatest risk of being uninsured, with 35 percent having no insurance coverage for the first part of 2004. Furthermore, the lack of coverage was worst of young Hispanic adults, with 56 percent uninsured.

Other data from the survey show that roughly 64 percent of American workers in large, private-sector companies—defined as 50 or more workers—were enrolled in health insurance plans offered by their employers in 2003 but enrollment rates varied substantially by type of industry.

The mining and manufacturing industry had the highest enrollment rate at 82 percent, while the lowest rate was recorded at 41 percent from employees in the "other service industries" category that included hotel and restaurant workers, sanitation workers, and laundry employees.

Other industries recording high enrollment rates included wholesale trade (79 percent), financial services and real estate (77 percent), and transportation (72 percent).

The average employee contributions toward premiums were $627 for single coverage and $2,242 for a family of four, also varying by type of industry, AHRQ stated in a news release.

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