Who Doesn't Have Health Insurance?

IN his State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Clinton promised to veto any health-care legislation that ``does not guarantee every American private health insurance that can never be taken away.''

In a new study, the Employee Benefit Research Institute offers some ``facts'' on health insurance, gleaned from the government's ``Current Population Survey'' of March 1993.

* Eighty-three percent of nonelderly Americans and 99 percent of elderly Americans (aged 65 and over) were covered by either public or private health insurance in 1992. Although some of the nonelderly had public health insurance (15 percent), private insurance was the most common source of coverage - usually obtained through an employment-based plan. In contrast, nearly all of the elderly (96 percent) were covered by Medicare.

* In 1992, 38.5 million nonelderly Americans did not have health insurance, up from 36.3 million in 1991. Among those 38.5 million Americans, most were working adults (56.7 percent), while the remainder were children (25.4 percent) and nonworking adults (17.8 percent). Nearly one-half of all uninsured workers were either self-employed or working in firms with fewer than 25 employees in 1992.

* The uninsured are concentrated disproportionately in low-income families. In 1992, 53 percent of the uninsured were in families with annual incomes under $20,000. Thirty-five percent of individuals in families with annual incomes less than $5,000 were uninsured, compared with only 6 percent of families with incomes above $50,000.

* Fifteen percent of all children - or 9.8 million children - in the United States were not covered by private health insurance and were either ineligible or did not receive publicly financed medical assistance in 1992.

* Nearly all of the states with the highest percentage of uninsured people were in the South or Southwest regions. Lower average income, lower Medicaid eligibility rates, and higher unemployment rates may all be contributing factors.

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