Washington, D.C., August 26, 2004 - The American Public Health Association responded today to the U.S. Census Bureau’s alarming report that the number of uninsured and Americans living in poverty both rose in 2003. The Census Bureau reported that the number of uninsured Americans rose by 1.4 million to 15.6 percent, or 45 million, in 2003, up from 15.2 percent in 2002, the third straight annual increase. Meanwhile, the nation’s poverty rate also climbed to 12.5 percent last year, from 12.1 percent in 2002.
The Census Bureau largely attributed the decline in insurance coverage rates to the drop in coverage from employment-based health plans, partially offset by increases in government health coverage. Employment-based health insurance coverage fell 0.9 percentage points between 2002 and 2003, while Medicare coverage increased 0.2 percentage points.
“The issue is getting worse, not better,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “How many more studies and reports do we need showing the rise in the uninsured before we take action? Solving the crisis should be a top priority for our elected leaders.”
The proportion of uninsured children remained at 11.4 percent of all children, or 8.4 million, in 2003, but children in poverty were more likely to be uninsured than all children, 19.2 percent compared with 11.4 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Hispanic children, at 21.0 percent, were more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic White, Black, or Asian children. The Census income, poverty and health insurance data came from the bureau’s Current Population Survey, which is conducted in February, March and April at about 100,000 addresses nationwide.
To address the growing crisis of the uninsured, APHA issued 14 points on universal health care, available at "APHA 14 Points on Universal Health Care Toward a National Health Program for the United States." Included among these points is a call for the following:
- Universal coverage for everyone in the United States with comprehensive benefits, affordable prices and quality services;
- Organization and administration of health care through publicly accountable mechanisms to assure maximum responsiveness to public needs, with a major role for federal, state and local government health agencies; and
- Attention to the organization, staffing, delivery and payment of care to the needs of all populations, including those confronting geographic, physical, cultural, language and other non-financial barriers to service.