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Health Insurance Coverage Improves for American Children

For Release: Monday, February 4, 2002

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800

E-mail: paoquery@cdc.gov

Early Release of Selected Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)
Data From January-June 2001 (Released 2/4/2002)

Fewer children in the United States lacked health insurance in the first half of 2001 than at any other time in the past four years, according to the latest survey of insurance coverage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, some 11.2 percent of children under 18 years of age were without health insurance coverage based on data collected from January to June 2001, down from 13.9 in 1997.

"Insurance coverage means healthier children and healthier families, and we are working hard to expand access to insurance for those in need around the country," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "Through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, we are giving states greater flexibility to provide health care to low-income children and families, helping Americans who otherwise would lack access to the health care that they need."

The CDC survey also found that the percent of children with public coverage rose from 20 percent in 1998 to 23.1 percent by January - June 2001. Children were more than twice as likely as adults aged 18-64 years to have public coverage.

Overall, 14.1 percent of the population--some 38.9 million Americans of all ages--was without health insurance coverage in the first half of 2001, down from 15.4 percent in 1997, meaning about 2 million fewer Americans lacked health insurance by early 2001. Working-age adults were more likely than seniors or children to lack health insurance coverage, with 17.9 percent of those aged 18-64 without coverage.

In early 2001 about one in three Hispanics lacked health insurance, a far greater percent than the non-Hispanic black population (18.8 percent) and non-Hispanic whites at 10 percent.

In August 2001, Secretary Thompson launched an initiative to encourage states to expand access to health care coverage for low-income individuals through the Medicaid and SCHIP program, which HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administers. The initiative gives states more flexibility to coordinate these companion programs and offers a simpler application for states that commit to reducing the number of people without health insurance.

Lack of health insurance coverage is one of the 11 health indicators covered by the Early Release Program of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a household interview survey conducted annually by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Results from 1997 through the first half of 2001 are now available electronically. Findings for January - June 2001 should be considered preliminary. Other indicators include influenza vaccination, pneumococcal vaccination, obesity, leisure time physical activity, health status, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, HIV testing, having a usual source of medical care and failing to obtain needed medical care.

Adult Vaccination Coverage

The survey shows that the percentage of adults aged 65 and older who received influenza vaccine in the past year climbed steadily in the past few years, dropped in the last quarter of 2000--reflecting the delay in the availability of vaccine for the 2000-2001 flu season–and rebounded somewhat in the first half of 2001. However, vaccination levels in the first half of 2001 (64.3 percent) were still lower than in 2000 (68.1 percent).

For those aged 65 and over, the percent who had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination increased from 1997 to 2001. Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to have ever received pneumococcal vaccinations than non-Hispanic black and Hispanic groups.

"Vaccinations are one of the most effective means of preventing disease," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We need to do all that’s necessary to have vaccines available for all those who can benefit from their use," he said.

Other data highlights from January - June 2001

  • About a third of U.S. adults reported participating in regular leisure-time physical activity.
  • The prevalence of obesity based on self-reported weight and height among U.S. adults has increased over time from 19.4 percent in 1997 to 22.5 percent in 2001.
  • About two thirds of Americans classify their health as excellent or very good.
  • Some 22.3 percent of adults were current smokers, indicating a continued decline in smoking.
  • About one in ten American adults (ages 18-64) consumed alcohol excessively. For both men and women, younger adults were more likely to drink excessively than older adults.
  • The percent of adults who have a usual source of medical care remained relatively constant at about 85 percent from 1997 to 2001. During this same time period, about 93 percent of children had a usual source of care.
  • In 2001, 4.8 percent of the population--up slightly over the past four years-- was unable to obtain needed medical care in the past year due to financial barriers.

"Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data from the January - June 2001 National Health Interview Survey" can be viewed or downloaded from the NCHS Web site. CDC plans to periodically release updated findings on these and additional indicators on the Internet to track important health measures.

CDC protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

 
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