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Your health

Only one in six Americans have health insurance

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 44.3 million Americans, one in six, had no health insurance coverage in 1998, about the same proportion as a year earlier. The survey found that the number of people without coverage grew by nearly a million, but overall population growth kept the rate about steady .

In 1998, 16.3 percent had no coverage, compared with 16.1 percent in 1997. In 1996, 15.6 percent lacked health coverage. A reported 70.2 percent of Americans covered by a private insurance plan provided either through the employer or union. Nonetheless, 47.5 percent of low-paid, full-time workers lacked health insurance in 1998.

The other major source of health coverage was the government through Medicare (13.2 percent of the population), Medicaid (10.3 percent) and military health care (3.2 percent). Many people carried coverage from more than one plan.

While Medicaid covered 14 million poor people, about one-third of all poor people, 11.2 million, had no health insurance. Americans with higher incomes were most likely to be insured. Only 8.3 percent of people in households with annual income of $75,000 or more lacked insurance, but the rate increased to 25.2 percent in homes with incomes below $25,000.

Early Flu Shots Urged in U.S.

The flu season is here early, say public health officials, thanks to an influenza strain that reached the continental United States by hitching a ride on Alaskan cruise ships.

Several cases have been reported in the continental United States, including four in Colorado linked to Alaska cruise ship outbreaks. Alaska is usually the first place in the United States to be affected. Flu viruses start in Asia and head east.

The disease affects as much as 20 percent of the population every season. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, nearly 20,000 Americans die from flu complications each year. Flu is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.