More Children Than Ever Had Health Insurance in 2003, But Coverage For Working-Age Adults Declined

For Release: June 30, 2004

Contact: NCHS/CDC Public Affairs, (301) 458-4800


Health Insurance Coverage: Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 2003 pdf icon[PDF – 371 KB]

More children than ever before were covered by health insurance in 2003, according to results of a survey released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the overall percentage of Americans lacking health insurance remained unchanged, and lack of insurance increased among working-age adults, the survey found. Lack of insurance especially affected minority populations.

The percentage of children without current (at the time of the interview) health insurance coverage dropped from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 10.1 percent in 2003, the highest rate of health insurance coverage for children ever measured by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The improvement reflects an increase in public coverage for poor and near-poor children, including the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Among poor and near-poor children, lack of coverage dropped by about a third from 1997. For near-poor children in particular, public coverage almost doubled from 24 percent to 47 percent between 1997 and 2003.

SCHIP is designed to help children without health insurance, many of whom come from working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private health insurance. Over 70 percent of poor children under 18 years of age rely on public coverage. The growth in public coverage was observed for other age groups and corresponded to a drop in private coverage.

Overall, 15.2 percent of the population – 43.6 million Americans of all ages – was without current health insurance coverage in 2003, about the same level as in 1997. However, the latest estimates indicated a decline in coverage for working-age adults in 2003. Working-age adults were more likely than seniors or children to lack health insurance coverage, with 20.1 percent lacking coverage during 2003, up from 18.9 percent in 1997. More than half of unemployed adults lacked health insurance in 2003.

Lack of health insurance also continues to disproportionately affect minorities. In 2003, about 1 in 3 (33 percent) Hispanics lacked health insurance, a far greater percent than the non-Hispanic black population (17.4 percent) and non-Hispanic white population (11 percent.) These findings appear in Health Insurance Coverage: Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 2003 gathered from the annual household survey conducted by CDC.

In addition to current insurance coverage, the survey also produced estimates of those who lacked insurance at any time during the year and those who had no insurance for more than a year. In general, the patterns of insurance were the same for all three measures—that is, children were the best off for coverage and working–age adults the most likely to have been without insurance at the time of the interview or to have lacked insurance for part of or more than a year.

Results can be found at CDC/NCHS Web site. The National Health Interview Survey, conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, is based on personal interviews with a sample of the nation’s civilian, noninsitutionalized population. The Web site also contains additional information about the survey.


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