updated 6/30/2004 6:11:14 PM ET 2004-06-30T22:11:14

The percentage of American children with no health insurance has dropped to the lowest level on record because of expanded state programs, the government said Wednesday. But the ranks of working-age adults without coverage are up slightly since 1997.

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Only 10.1 percent of U.S. children were uninsured last year, the lowest level ever recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1997, 13.9 percent were not covered by health insurance.

“We were surprised how dramatic the drop was in children,” said Robin Cohen, CDC health statistician.

Around 2.6 million more children were insured last year than in 1997, the CDC said.

The increase was attributed to expanded state health insurance programs.

Most uninsured are single adults
The CDC said the percentage of Americans overall without health insurance remained steady at 15 percent between 1997 and 2003.

But the percentage of working-age adults without coverage increased, from 18.9 percent in 1997 to 20.1 percent in 2003, the CDC said.

Most of the country’s uninsured are single adults who work for companies too small to offer health insurance, said Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of Emory University’s department of health policy and management.

“It’s just unaffordable for most low- and moderate-income workers,” Thorpe said. “That’s the area where we haven’t done anywhere near as well on the covered side.”

Expanding Medicaid and state health insurance programs to cover more people would reduce the gap, Thorpe said. But he warned that state budget cuts could cause the ranks of uninsured children to rise.

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