Working But Uninsured: Millions of Employed Americans Uninsured and Unable to Get Medical Care

    • April 27, 2005

A new study analyzing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that a significant number of working Americans in every state do not have health care coverage, with more than 20 million working adults not having coverage. In eight states, at least one in five working adults is uninsured. In 39 other states, at least one working adult in every 10 does not have health care coverage. The report further reveals that in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, between one-fourth and one-half of all uninsured adults were unable to see a doctor when needed in the past year because of cost.

"Characteristics of the Uninsured: A View from the States" was released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) during a kickoff event for Cover the Uninsured Week, the largest nonpartisan campaign in history to focus attention on the need to secure reliable, affordable health coverage for all Americans. Some of the most influential organizations in the country, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, are cosponsoring the Week, which occurs from May 1-8. Supported by nine former Surgeons General and Health and Human Services Secretaries appointed by both Republican and Democratic presidents, the effort is co-chaired by Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Noah Wyle, star of the TV drama "ER," serves as the campaign's national spokesperson.

More than 1,000 public events will take place from coast to coast during Cover the Uninsured Week, with events taking place in every state and the District of Columbia. The effort brings together diverse national, state, and community organizations to tell the nation's leaders that health coverage for all must be a top priority. Specific events are designed to help uninsured individuals get services and provide information to small business owners who are finding it difficult to provide health insurance for their employees.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined in today's event to launch the Week. Their bipartisan "Health Care that Works for All Americans" Act passed Congress last year. It calls for convening a national discussion on health care through multiple community meetings and online discussions, followed by hearings in Congress on the views of the American people.

"Cover the Uninsured Week is a nonpartisan effort to discuss this issue in America's neighborhoods," said Hatch. "Some in Washington spend too much time blaming each other for this problem, but the American people want us to work together to solve it. That is why Senator Wyden and I reached across the aisle to establish a national discussion."

"Uniting Americans to call for change is the first step toward getting real action from Washington," said Wyden. "Efforts like Cover the Uninsured Week help more Americans understand how toughit is for individuals and families to be without health care coverage, and how that impacts our communities, our health care system, and our economy. Working together across the aisle and across the country is the only way to build a health care system that will work for everyone."

The report released today was prepared for RWJF by researchers at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, located at the University of Minnesota. Additional findings, of surveyed adults ages 18-64, include:

  • The problem is pervasive among workers in every state.States with the highest rates of uninsured residents among employed adults include Texas (27 percent), New Mexico (23 percent), Louisiana (23 percent), Florida (22 percent), Montana (21 percent), Oklahoma (21 percent), Nevada (20 percent), and Arkansas (20 percent). States with the lowest uninsured rates among employed adults include Minnesota (7 percent), Hawaii (9 percent), Delaware (9 percent), and the District of Columbia (9 percent).
  • Uninsured adults are unable to see a doctor when needed. Nationally, 41 percent of uninsured adults report being unable to see a doctor when needed in the past 12 months, due to cost, compared to just nine percent of adults who have health care coverage.
  • Uninsured adults are less likely to have a personal doctor or health care provider.Nationally, 56 percent of adults without health care coverage say they do not have a personal doctor or health care provider, compared with just 16 percent of people with health care coverage.
  • Adults who are uninsured are much more likely to report being in poor or fair health than are adults who are insured.Nationally, one in five uninsured adults (20 percent) say their health is fair or poor, compared with nearly one in nine adults with health coverage (12 percent).

The report uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS). The BRFSS is a national telephone survey of preventive and health risk behaviors. It is administered in all 50 states and D.C. to adults 18 years of age and older.

Cover the Uninsured Week has grown considerably since the campaign was first introduced in 2003. Nearly 250 national organizations and 2,500 local organizations have participated in planning events. Throughout the nation, hundreds of health and enrollment fairs will provide screenings and information to those without coverage. Business seminars will provide opportunities for small business owners to discuss ways to provide affordable health plans for their employees. Special coverage-oriented educational forums will take place on campuses nationwide before, during, and after the Week. Rabbis, pastors, priests, and imams throughout the nation will be talking about this issue and getting congregants involved in efforts to help people who are uninsured. Press conferences are being planned in cities across the country, assembling diverse groups of local leaders to demonstrate community support for action on the issue and to release new research.

"Cover the Uninsured Week provides momentum and mobilization that will ultimately result in actions that benefit the millions of Americans who live without health coverage," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Too many families suffer, and too many lives are lost because our nation has not taken action to address this problem. As a nation, and as individuals, we can either let 45 million of our neighbors live without health insurance, or we can come together and do something about it."

In addition to RWJF, Cover the Uninsured Week is being organized by a diverse group of organizations representing some of the most influential organizations in the United States: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Leadership Council, American Medical Association, National Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Families USA, AARP, United Way of America, National Council of La Raza, The California Endowment, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

To view the state-by-state research report, locate Cover the Uninsured Week activities, or download materials in English or Spanish, log on to