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Rate of uninsured falls, but underlying factors remain shaky

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The percentage of uninsured Americans fell from 1998 to 1999 — for the first time in a decade. But, according to a study prepared by the Health Insurance Association of America, the underlying factors affecting coverage have not changed — and that could mean the decline is just an illusion. HIAA says a strong economy and the jobs it creates lead more people into employer-based coverage, but rapid health care cost inflation or a downfall in the economy could add significantly to the ranks of the uninsured.

The rate is expected to remain relatively constant through the end of the decade under HCFA's assumptions of sustained economic growth and moderate health care inflation. With rapid economic growth and high inflation, as experienced during the 1980s, HIAA projects the rate would climb to 21 percent by the end of the decade. Should the economy go into a recession like that of the early 1990s, the rate jumps to over 23 percent.

SOURCE: THE CHANGING SOURCES OF HEALTH INSURANCE, HEALTH INSURANCE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, DECEMBER 2000

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