Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Health coverage
declined in 2002

The situation in Hawaii
mirrors the nation,
though not as severely

The percentage of Hawaii residents without health insurance increased between 2001 and 2002, mirroring a two-year national trend.

However, the growth in Hawaii was relatively small compared with most other states and the Aloha State remains one of the best in terms of health insurance coverage.

A U.S. Census Bureau report issued today showed the percentage of Hawaii residents without health insurance grew to 9.8 percent last year, compared with 9.5 percent in 2001.

Joan White, executive director of the Hawaii Uninsured Project, estimates there are about 120,000 Hawaii residents without health insurance. About 50,000 to 70,000 are employed but don't work the required 19.5 hours a week at any one job to be covered by health insurance.

"Many have two or three jobs, many earn commissions only, many are part-time workers," White said.

About 25,000 uninsured people in Hawaii are eligible for Quest, but haven't applied for a variety of reasons, including language barriers and lack of Quest offices in rural areas, she said. Quest provides managed-care health coverage to low-income families.

Nationally, the number of uninsured jumped to 15.2 percent in 2002 from 14.6 percent in 2001. A total of 43.6 million Americans had no health insurance last year. The Census Bureau said that even though the national recession officially ended in November 2001, more people fell into poverty and median income declined in the United States in 2002.

Loss of insurance coverage stemming from layoffs and scaled-back benefits was primarily to blame, Census Bureau analyst Robert Mills said. In 2002, 61.3 percent of U.S. residents were covered under an employment-based policy, down from 62.6 percent in 2001.

The highest uninsured figure among the states was in Texas, where 24.7 percent of residents were uninsured last year, up from 23.2 percent the year before.

The lowest was in Iowa, where the percentage of residents lacking health insurance went to 8.5 percent in 2002 from 8.2 percent in 2001.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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