In 1989 more than 34 million residents of the United States had neither private health insurance nor did they qualify for public programs that finance health care. These people, notes the Employee Benefit Research Institute, account for 16 percent of the nonelderly population.

That is an increase from about 12 percent in 1978. The number of uninsured is at the center of debate over reform of the US health care system.

Using data from the March 1990 current population survey, the Institute found that more than half the uninsured were working adults, 16.7 percent were nonworking adults, and 28.7 percent children.

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