About 33% of the U.S. residents who lacked health coverage in 2003 had annual household incomes over $50,000 per year.[@@]

The U.S. Census Bureau published figures supporting that conclusion today in a batch of social and economic survey results.

Although low-income U.S. residents were more likely than high-income U.S. residents to lack health coverage, the number of high-income, uninsured residents grew faster.

The number of people with annual household incomes over $50,000 who were uninsured increased to 14.8 million, up 4.6% from the total for the year before. The number increased 2.5% for people with annual household incomes under $25,000.

Expansion of government insurance programs held the overall uninsured rate to 15.6% in 2003, up from 15.2% a year earlier, but the percentage of people with individual or employer-sponsored private coverage fell to 68.6%, from 69.6%.

The Commonwealth Fund, New York, a health care think tank, has responded to the census data by pointing out that 57% of the Americans who participated in its spring health insurance survey said presidential and congressional candidates’ views on health reform would be a very important factor when they cast their votes this November.

But the census results could help health insurance company and agent groups defend proposals to offer different solutions for low-income, moderate-income and high-income uninsured people, rather than setting up a single, government-run program for all uninsured U.S. residents.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, says 66% of likely voters surveyed in 17 key presidential “battleground” states earlier this year favored a tailored approach. Only 27% favored a single program to cover the uninsured, AHIP reports.

AHIP is recommending that the government expand and improve government health programs to help low-income people, improve special “risk pool” programs to help people with health problems, and use tax incentives and direct subsidies to help healthy, relatively high-income uninsured people buy private health coverage.

The National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., also is supporting a combination of expanded risk pool programs for people with health problems and tax incentives for other uninsured people.

“Refundable tax credits are a simple and realistic way to extend private health insurance coverage to uninsured individuals and their families who are in most need of assistance,” says Janet Trautwein, NAHU vice president of government affairs. “We strongly believe that the tax credit should be made available in both the individual market as well as through the employer-based health insurance system.”

The Census Bureau has posted links to the latest batch of social and economic survey results at http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/income_wealth/002484.html