Since 1987 the percentage of Americans without health insurance—purchased privately, provided by employers, or provided by the government—has risen from 12.9 percent to 15.9 percent. That figure is often used to suggest a steadily worsening crisis that only government intervention can solve. But the story is more complicated than those numbers initially suggest.
Among native-born Americans, insurance levels actually have been pretty steady since 1993, with a small rise in the percentage of people insured. In that year, 86.3 percent of native-born Americans were insured, compared with 86.6 in 2005. The increase in the percentage of the population that isn’t covered has come almost entirely from immigrants. And it’s unlikely that those immigrants would be getting better health care back in Central America.
GRAPH: Percentage of Insured Americans by Nativity, 1993–2005 (graph not available online)