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Census Bureau Says Number of Individuals Without Health Insurance Rose by 600,000

Posted on 11 Sep 2009

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Adding new fuel to the ongoing debate over national health care reform, newly released numbers from the Census Bureau show that the number of people lacking any health insurance appears to have risen by 600,000 between 2007 and 2008.

The Census Bureau reported the increase, to 46.3 million, on Thursday, less than a day after President Barack Obama outlined his latest vision for health care reform to a joint session of Congress.

Census figures show the number of people with health insurance increased from 253.4 million in 2007 to 255.1 million in 2008.

Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2008, the number of people covered by private health insurance decreased from 202 million to 201 million, while the number covered by government health insurance climbed by 4.4 million, to 87.4 million.

Those employees covered by employer-based health insurance declined from 177.4 million to 176.3 million between 2007 and 2008.

The Census Bureau research does not identify reasons for changes, but one can easily surmise that economic conditions late last year when the recession began and employers began cutting jobs are likely sources for the changes.

Northeast and Midwest numbers down

The Northeast and Midwest, at 11.6%, had lower uninsured rates last year than the West (17.4%) and South (18.2%). The 2008 rates for the Northeast, Midwest and South were not statistically different from their respective 2007 rates. The uninsured rate for the West increased to 17.4% in 2008, up from 16.9% in 2007.

Efforts to enroll more children in state-funded health programs appear to be working, as the uninsured rate and number of uninsured children were the lowest since 1987, the first year comparable data was collected by Census officials. The number of uninsured children declined from 8.1 million (11%) in 2007 to 7.3 million (9.9%) last year.

A number of states have expanded their State Children’s Insurance Program (SCHIP) qualifications to families with incomes as high as two times or three times the federal poverty level in the last few years, and some states have begun reviewing tax returns to determine potential candidates for coverage.

Poor children more likely to be lacking coverage

Although the uninsured rate for children in poverty declined from 17.6% in 2007 to 15.7% in 2008, children in poverty were more likely to be uninsured than all children, officials said.

Census figures indicate that the uninsured rate and number of uninsured for non-Hispanic whites increased in 2008 to 10.8% and 21.3 million. In 2007, the numbers had been 10.4% and 20.5 million. The uninsured rate and number of uninsured for blacks in 2008, meanwhile, were not statistically different from 2007, at 19.1% and 7.3 million. The uninsured rate for Asians in 2008 rose to 17.6%, up from 16.8%. The percentage of uninsured Hispanics decreased to 30.7% in 2008, from 32.1% in 2007. The number of uninsured Hispanics was not statistically different in 2008, at 14.6 million.

Based on a three-year average (2006-2008), 31.7% of people who reported American Indian and Alaska Native as their race were without coverage. The three-year average uninsured rate for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders was 18.5%.

The uninsured rates for the native-born and foreign-born populations were statistically unchanged at 12.9% and 33.5%, respectively, in 2008. Among the foreign-born population, the uninsured rates for both naturalized citizens (18%) and noncitizens (44.7%) were statistically unchanged, Census officials said.