Number of uninsured rises in New York - faster that the nation's rate

The proportion of New Yorkers without health insurance coverage rose to 17.5 percent in 1997, significantly above the national rate of 16.1 percent, a new U.S. Census Bureau report shows.

The two-year average rate of uninsured New Yorkers rose 1.1 percentage points from 1995-96 to 1996-97-an increase that was nearly three times the national rate of increase, the report said.

Studies show the cost of health insurance is the key barrier to health-care coverage for families and individuals in New York and nationwide, said Elliott Shaw.

"These authoritative numbers are the latest evidence that health-care costs in New York are too high and must be reduced," Shaw said. "This is a competitive issue for businesses and a very serious problem for working New Yorkers and employers who simply cannot afford the rising cost of health insurance."

The Council's top legislative priorities for 1999 include reducing government-added costs in our health-care bills.

One example is the $1.38 billion in "temporary" taxes imposed in 1996 to pay for graduate medical education and uncompensated hospital services. Those taxes expire in December unless lawmakers extend them.

"High health-care costs make it likelier that individuals and families will go uninsured, and that often means poorer health care," Shaw said. "The best health-care reform our leaders can enact is to cut the cost of coverage, starting with taxes."

As recently as 1995, the proportion of uninsured residents was lower in New York than in the nation as a whole, according to the Census Bureau.

Nearly 3.2 million New Yorkers were uninsured in 1997, the report shows.

October 19, 1998