Private insurers covered a smaller percentage of the U.S. population in 2004 than in 2003 even though they covered more people.[@@]

The total number of U.S. residents with private health coverage inched up to 198.3 million, from 197.9 million, while the number with employer-sponsored coverage crept up to 174.17 million, from 174.02 million, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau study.

But because of growth in the number of workers and the total U.S. population, the percentage of U.S. residents with any private coverage fell to 68.1%, from 68.6%, while the percentage who had job-related coverage fell to 59.8%, from 60.4%.

Expansion of government health programs helped hold the percentage of U.S. residents without any health coverage to about 16%.

Although Medicaid programs added many more new members, gains also came from military-related health coverage programs. Because of the activation of many members of the Guard and Reserves for duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, the percentage of the population with military health plan coverage increased to 3.7% in 2004, from 3.5% a year earlier, the Census Bureau reports.

Cheryl Hill Lee, a Census Bureau researcher, wrote the health insurance section of the study using data from the bureau’s Current Population Survey.

One table that might be of interest to private insurers deals with insured and uninsured rates for U.S. residents with annual household incomes over $50,000.

The percentage of uninsured in the $50,000-$74,999 income range rose slightly last year to 13%, from 12%.

For persons earning more than $75,000, the uninsured rate rose to 8.4%, from 8.2%.

The percentage of full-time workers who are uninsured rose to 17.8%, from 17.5%, while the part-time worker uninsured rate rose in 2004 to 25%, from 24%.