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WASHINGTON-The number of people in the United States without health insurance in 1996 hit a record 41.7 million, up 1.1 million from 1995, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last month.

In all, about 15.6% of the population was uninsured last year, up from 15.4% in 1995.

States in 1996 with the highest percentages of uninsured people include Texas, 24.3%; Arizona, 24.1%; and New Mexico, 22.3%. States that had the highest coverage rates include Wisconsin, with only 8.4% not insured; Hawaii, 8.6%; and Michigan, 8.9%.

About 163.2 million people in 1996 had employment-based coverage, compared with 161.5 million in 1995.

The number of people without health insurance should be come down over the next few years thanks to government initiatives.

This summer, for example, Congress passed legislation that will give states about $24 billion during the next five years to establish programs to provide health care coverage to children in low-income families. Last year, Congress passed a measure that, starting next year, will curb the ability of health care plans to deny coverage for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.