NU Online News Service, Aug. 3, 2004, 5:03 p.m. EDT

The weak job market may be reducing the percentage of middle-income U.S. residents who have health coverage.[@@]

The Center for Studying Health System Change, Washington, has published data supporting that conclusion in an analysis of U.S. health coverage trends data.

One table, which draws on responses to a 2003 survey of 47,000 households, shows that the percentage of U.S. residents under age 65 who lack any form of public or private health coverage increased to 15% in 2003, from 14.1% in 2001.

Expansion of subsidized children’s health insurance programs helped cut “uninsurance rates” for nonelderly U.S. residents in families that earn less than 200% of the official federal poverty level. The percentage of U.S. residents in that income category who lacked health coverage in 2003 fell to 27.3%, from 27.7% 2 years earlier.

But the uninsurance rate for “high-income” U.S. residents in families earning more than 400% of the federal poverty level increased to 5.8%, from 5.7%, and the uninsurance rate for middle-income families jumped to 12.9%, from 11.7%.

Survey results reveal that U.S. residents who belong to middle-income families with at least 1 working member had almost as much access to health coverage in 2003 as in 2001. The access rate fell to 83.6%, from 83.7%.

But the percentage of residents in “working families” that actually took up health coverage fell to 93.6%, from 95.1%.

Because of the downturn in the economy, the percentage of middle-income U.S. residents in working families plunged to 84.6%, from 88.3%.

The shift hit adults between the ages of 19 and 39 particularly hard. Their uninsurance rate rose to 23.8%, from 21.2%, in just 2 years.