NU Online News Service, Oct. 14, 2004, 3:35 p.m. EDT

An increase in the number of Americans without health insurance is largely the result of a decline in people with employment-based health insurance.[@@]

The Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, draws that conclusion in a new analysis of 2003 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

174 million Americans, or about 60%, were covered by their employers last year, down from around 65% in 2000, EBRI found. At the same time, the uninsured population rose to 15.6% from 15.2% in the prior year.

Nearly 77 million Americans were covered by public health care programs last year, of whom more than half were enrolled in Medicare, EBRI reports.

Other health insurance coverage trends were in line with earlier EBRI studies. For instance, the largest employers are the most likely to offer coverage. Coverage also varies substantially from one state to another: During the 2001-2003 period, for instance, only around 9% of nonelderly residents of Minnesota were uninsured, but this figure nearly triples in Texas, where the uninsured rate was 27% for this group.

“These trends are the result of a weak labor market and rising health benefit costs,” says EBRI president and chief executive Dallas Salisbury. “This is likely to be a continuing trend.”