Millions Lack Health Insurance

The Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles is the biggest free clinic in the country, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes. Most of its patients work, but they have no health insurance.

Rosario Molina had no insurance to cover her daughter's birth, even though she had a job as a cashier.

"They say they never give insurance to nobody," said Molina, who works 40 hours a week.

A new U.S. Census Bureau study finds an estimated 44 million people had no health insurance last year -– that's more than 16 percent of the population, a million more people than 1997.

One-third of all poor people are uninsured, the study found, and the number of uninsured women is increasing faster than men. Hispanics, part-time workers and young adults have the highest rates of non-coverage.

Jennifer Campbell of the Census Bureau says, "the number of uninsured continues to increase every year, and the percentage of poor people without health insurance is about twice that of the national average."

This news comes at a time of unprecedented prosperity, when more Americans than ever are working. Yet the study finds that nearly half of the employed are uninsured.

Many of the newly employed have just moved off welfare, on which they had Medicaid coverage. Now, they have no coverage at all.

"People who are in need of a job can't ask for more benefits because they are afraid of losing their jobs," says Forer.

Others don't have coverage because many of the jobs created in the last five years were in small businesses that don't offer benefits, and a federally sponsored children's health program is falling well short of enrollment targets.

President Clinton issued an "I told you so" Monday, saying he saw it coming when national health care failed. "The first lady and I and all the rest of us were right in 1994, he said.

While few people in Congress, Republican or Democrat, want to revisit that ground, it is clear that the system is broken, reports CBS News Senior White House Correspondent John Roberts.

In the absence of a national policy, the White House tried incremental changes, like tax incentives to employers who provided coverage. Such policies, critics charged, showed a lack of vision.

"They've been assuming that if you just add a little bit of coverage here or there or push employers to enroll some more people, somehow that will gradually solve the problem," said health policy analyst Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "It won't."

The battle to provide health care for the uninsured will now be fought on the campaign trail, with Democrat and Republican candidates for president all putting forward their own plans. And while they don't propose the same top-to-bottom overhaul the Clinton Administration did, there will be some radical surgery to remedy what many people call a national disgrace.