Stretches Without Health Insurance More Common

Change from early 1980s to early 2000s seen particularly in those with lowest education level
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Periods of uninsurance have become more common in recent decades, particularly among those with less education, according to research published in the April 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

David M. Cutler, Ph.D., of Harvard University, and Alexander M. Gelber, Ph.D., of the National Bureau of Economic Research, both in Cambridge, Mass., analyzed data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation of the U.S. Census Bureau covering phases 1983 through 1986 and 2001 through 2004.

The portion of the population losing insurance during a 12-month period rose from 19.8 percent in the first phase to 21.8 percent in the second phase. The increase was particularly noticeable in people with less education. Uninsured periods grew shorter in the 2001 through 2004 time frame than the earlier period due to a larger number of people obtaining public insurance.

"In conclusion, uninsured periods are more prevalent, but shorter, now than they were two decades ago. A decline in private coverage, especially for persons with a lower educational level, has been offset by an increase in public coverage. Serious problems could lie ahead if employer-based coverage continues to decline while the availability of public coverage remains the same or is reduced," the authors write.

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