The New York Times
September 28, 2001
by Robert Pear
Over all, the number of people without health insurance declined by 551,000, to 38.7 million last year, from 39.3 million in 1999, the bureau said. The proportion of people without coverage declined to 14 percent, from 14.3 percent.
The Census Bureau said it had made technical changes that tended to reduce the number of people listed as uninsured, so the figures for 1999 and 2000 are not directly comparable with those for earlier years. In conducting interviews, the bureau said, it now asks follow-up questions to help people recall whether they have insurance.
Several economists and health policy experts said the declines were unlikely to continue this year. Tens of thousands of people have been laid off, the economy has weakened, and the cost of health care and health insurance has shot up.
Kate Sullivan, director of health care policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce:
“We now have very different economic conditions. Employers are experiencing the highest premium increases in a decade. I expect to see an increase in the number of uninsured in 2001 because people have been losing their jobs. An unemployed worker cannot easily afford coverage.”
Comment: HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson stated yesterday that current proposals for the uninsured include modifying COBRA benefits for the recently unemployed, and expanding the Medicaid program. Although both of these efforts should be supported, they will hardly impact the problems of inequity, cost containment, affordability and access. In these difficult times, reform that will contain health care costs is clearly in the national interest. We can contain costs, while improving access and reducing inequity, by enacting a program of publicly-administered universal health insurance. This should be elevated to the status of emergency legislation.