According to the latest U.S. Census statistics:
The Census Bureau announced the 2005 statistics today.
Children were also affected by the upward trend. The percentage of children under 18 who were uninsured rose to 11.2% in 2005, up from 10.8% the year before.
Uninsured people were more likely to be minorities, and not U.S. citizens.
The numbers are based on interviews with people from 100,000 U.S. households.
The growing ranks of the uninsured is due to a downturn in private health insurance plans, as opposed to government-sponsored coverage, notes the Census Bureau's David S. Johnson, Ph.D., who spoke in a media teleconference.
Johnson is chief of the Census Bureau's housing and household economic statistics division.
"Over the past few years, privately provided plans have fallen," Johnson says. "It did last year, it did this year. So that's not an unusual trend."
"Because the other coverage rates for the other particular types of programs, like government programs, remained unchanged, the fall in private coverage then caused the uninsured rate to go up, or the total percentage of people covered to go down," Johnson says.
The full report, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2005" is posted on the Census Bureau's Web site.
According to the Census Bureau, America's uninsured rate stood at 12.9% in 1987. The rate peaked at 16.3% in 1998, then fell two years in a row, dropping to 14.2% in 2000. The uninsured rate rose again until 2003-2004, then held steady at 15.6% until 2005.
"There are a number of the researchers out there that are looking at differences across data sets and you will find differences across data sets," Johnson says about the validity of the statistics. "But we're fully confident that the numbers are the best possible we can produce, and represent the accurate trends over time."
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau: "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005." David Johnson, Ph.D., Division Chief, Housing and Household Economic Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang M.D.