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One-fourth of America's Non-elderly Poor Go Years Without the Protection of Health Insurance

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: April 11, 2006

According to Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), poor Americans were disproportionately represented among the long-term uninsured. Not being insured refers to private health insurance as well as government programs such as Medicaid.

  • Poor Americans—those whose income is equal to or below the poverty line—represent 24.2 percent (3.8 million persons) of those who reported being continuously uninsured for at least 4 years, when surveyed in 2003. However, they represent only 12.6 percent of the U.S. population under age 65.
  • Conversely, high-income Americans make up 37.6 percent of the nation's under-65 population and yet this group represented only 10 percent of those continuously uninsured from 2000 to 2003, according to AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).
  • Nearly 4 in 10 (37.8 percent) of chronically uninsured Americans under age 65 were Hispanic, despite the fact that they represent just 15 percent of the nation's non-elderly population.
  • By contrast, non-Hispanic whites comprise 66 percent of the nation's under-65 population, but only 43.8 percent of the long-term uninsured population for the entire 2000 to 2003 period.

MEPS collects information each year from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households among the civilian, non-institutionalized population on health care use, health care expenses, access to services, health status, and the quality of the health care obtained. MEPS is a unique government survey because of the degree of detail provided by the data, and in the ability to link data on health services spending and health insurance to demographic, employment, health status, and other characteristics of individuals and families.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on statistics in The Long-term Uninsured in America, 2000-2003: Estimates for the U.S. Population under Age 65, available on AHRQ's Web site at [PDF Help]

For more information, or to speak with a MEPS data expert about the findings, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.


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