The health insurance status of the U.S. population, especially the size and composition of the
uninsured population, has become an issue of perennial public policy concern for several reasons.
First, health insurance is viewed as essential to ensure that individuals obtain timely access to medical
care and protection against the risk of expensive and unanticipated medical events. Compared to
people without health care coverage, insured individuals are more likely to have a usual source of
medical care, to spend less out of pocket on health services, and to experience different treatment
patterns, quality, and continuity in their health care
Almost one-third of all Hispanics and one-fifth of all blacks in the United States had no health insurance in early 1998, compared with 12.2 percent of whites. In addition, blacks were the most likely to be covered by public insurance, while whites were the most likely to have private coverage. The total number of Americans without health insurance was 42.3 million, or 15.8 percent of the population.
These estimates are from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's 1998 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).
Data Source: Health Insurance Status of the Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population: 1998. Research Findings 11 (AHRQ Publication 00-0023). Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
In addition, the percent of elderly Americans who held private health insurance coverage (usually in addition to their Medicare coverage) decreased from 60.5 percent to 55.3 percent from 1997 to 1998.
Individuals interested in additional information from Health Insurance Status of the Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population: 1998, Research Findings 11 (AHRQ Publication Number 00-0023), can get the full report at http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/papers/00-0023/00-0023.htm.