The nation's uninsured topped 40 million in 1995, up from 39.4 million in 1994, according to a study released last week by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
The not-for-profit organization said the 40.3 million uninsured represents 17.4% of the non-Medicare population. In 1994, 17.1% of non-Medicare-eligible Americans lacked insurance.
Also last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study showing that, contrary to popular opinion, more than half the nation's uninsured experienced problems obtaining or paying for healthcare in the past year.
According to Kaiser foundation President Drew Altman, other surveys taken by the group have consistently found that most Americans and most lawmakers believe the uninsured get care regardless of their ability to pay, with the cost being spread over other sectors of the healthcare market. However, the new survey casts doubt on that belief, Altman said.
The good news, according to Harvard University professor Robert Blendon, who directed the study, is that about half the uninsured didn't have any problems receiving medical care in the past year.
Of the 20 million adults who said they had some problem obtaining or paying for healthcare, 85% said they had experienced serious medical and financial problems because they didn't have access to care.
The study also found that 55% of the uninsured lacked coverage because it was too expensive. Less than 10% of those without coverage said they did not want or need it.