Capitol Corner

Uninsured numbers increase

A U.S. Census Bureau study released Sept. 30 shows the number of Americans who lack health insurance coverage increased by 1.4 million during 2001, bringing the total number of uninsured in the United States to 41.2 million. A majority of the increase resulted from those who had been getting health coverage from their jobs, especially if they work for small businesses. Factors in this pattern include small-business employers who stop offering insurance because of higher expenses and workers opting to drop coverage when their employers require greater co-payments for insurance costs.

According to The Washington Post, "The proportion of people who get insurance through their jobs dropped for the first time since 1993 from 63.6 percent in 2000 to 62.6 percent [in 2001]. This drop almost was entirely attributable to a decrease in employment-based coverage at companies with 25 [employees] or fewer. Coverage among workers at larger companies did not change."

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao called upon the Senate to pass association health plan (AHP) legislation to help the uninsured gain access to quality, affordable health insurance. On Sept. 13 at a Capitol Hill press conference, Chao issued a report from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) supporting AHPs. Chao was joined by Sens. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-Mo.), ranking Republican of the Senate Small Business Committee, and Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), as well as Reps. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas) and Cal Dooley (D-Calif.).