More health care have-nots

Published July 1, 2004 5:40PM (EDT)

The war in Iraq might be grabbing more headlines, but the problem of Americans living without health insurance -- a favorite issue of John Kerry's and one the Bush campaign would prefer to ignore -- is just getting worse. The Los Angeles Times reports today: "The economy started creating jobs again last year, but the number of working-age adults who went without health insurance for more than a year jumped sharply, the government reported Wednesday."

"An additional 2.6 million people ages 18 to 64 were uninsured for more than a year, raising the total to 24.5 million, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

"The report, released by the agency's National Center for Health Statistics, is the government's first statistical look at health insurance coverage during 2003, when the economy began reversing the job losses that started with the 2001 recession."

"The increase in the number of long-term uninsured, which Robin A. Cohen of the statistics center called 'quite a significant jump,' underscored the chronic nature of the problem and the decreasing likelihood that a job guaranteed access to health insurance, analysts said."

"'As we lose jobs in the manufacturing sector to jobs in the service economy and small businesses, we're losing the stability of big employers and replacing it with a much more fragile system,' said Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. 'Our uninsured problem is becoming more of a permanent problem instead of a temporary, transitional problem.'" So the decreasing numbers of insured Americans belies a broader problem with the country's economic recovery, casting some doubt on the president's claims that the economy is roaring back to the benefit of the average worker. Or maybe we're all just pessimists.

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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