Taxpayers foot the bill for much more of the nation's health insurance than is commonly thought, according to a study.

The Census Bureau has reported that 61.2 percent of the U.S. population has job-related insurance, and 25.9 percent is insured by the government.

However, many of the people counted as covered by private insurance actually got much of their insurance from the government, Olveen Carrasquillo of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

For instance, he said the Census Bureau lists most federal, state and local government workers as privately insured, even though taxpayers ultimately pay for that insurance.

In addition, people who get both private and federal insurance are listed by the government in both groups or only as privately insured. And some people are listed as having insurance provided by their company, even though the workers pay all the premiums.

By Carrasquillo's count, private employers' insurance covered 43.1 percent of the population in 1996, while 34.2 percent had publicly funded insurance. A total of 7.1 percent of Americans bought their own insurance, and 15.6 percent were uninsured, he said.