Left behind by the boom?

In our employer-driven health care system, you might think that 1997 should have been a banner year in terms of reducing the number of uninsured. After all, a robust economy launched the Dow Jones Industrial Average past two milestones: 7,000 in February and then, only four months later, 8,000. Meanwhile, inflation and unemployment were negligible or shrinking.

But while the good times were rolling for some, 43 million other Americans found themselves without health care coverage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s about 16.1 percent of the country’s population, or 1.7 million more uninsured than in 1996. The fact that the proportion of uninsured grew in a boom raises the question: What happens when times get tough? The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey doesn’t address that issue, but it does break the information down by numerous categories. Here’s a map showing the proportion of uninsured in each state.

Color map


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