While all seniors in the U.S. are covered by Medicare, not all
younger Americans have health insurance. After rising steadily
throughout the 1990s, the share of the population not covered
by health insurance declined in 1999. It now stands at roughly
Rates of uninsured nonelderly adults, broken down by race and
ethnicity, show that whites have the smallest fraction of uninsured.
One of every four blacks and more than one of every three Hispanics
has no health insurance coverage. Uninsured rates are higher among
low-income individuals, with whites showing the most drastic income-related
changes in incidence. Among low-income individuals, the rate of
uninsured whites doubles, nearing the uninsured rate of low-income
blacks. For low-income Hispanics, the uninsured rate rises to
Although females tend to have higher poverty rates, males are
less likely to be insured. A breakdown of categories by age shows
that young adult males (19-34) have the highest percent of uninsured
individuals. Surprisingly, near-elderly females (55-64) have a
higher percent of uninsured than males of the same age.
Past welfare efforts have been criticized for not allowing the
working poor or near poor to retain supplemental benefits (such
as health care benefits) when they enter the workforce or improve
their financial situation slightly. A breakdown of uninsured nonelderly
adults by family work status supports this contention: The poor
and near-poor have higher uninsured rates when at least one person
in the house is working than if no one in the family has a job.
Uninsured rates among the poor appear to rise with the number
of workers in the family.
Children's coverage rates show a similar pattern. In the aggregate
and for two-parent families, the percent of uninsured children
falls as family income rises. However, in one-parent households
and multigenerational/ other households, poor children have a
higher rate of coverage than do the near poor.
Distinguishing between poor and near poor does not yield a difference
for black or Hispanic children in terms of coverage rates. Among
white children, however, those from poor families have lower coverage
rates than those whose families are classified as near poor. Among
poor families, the percent of uninsured children is higher for
whites than for blacks. Like the larger nonelderly population
of Hispanics, more than one of every three Hispanic children living
in poverty or near-poverty lacks health insurance.