New Testimony: Time to Reverse the Trend in the Uninsured

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Yesterday, the Census Bureau released data showing that the number of uninsured Americans rose by 0.6 million, from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008. This increase, the result of a continuing decline in the number of individuals with employer-sponsored coverage, would have been much worse without the parallel growth in government-provided insurance, said Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis in her <a href="/publications/publication/2009/sep/testimony-changing-course-trends-health-insurance-coverage-2000">invited testimony</a> yesterday before the U.S. House of Representative's Joint Economic Committee and a <a href="/press-release/2009/statement-karen-davis-new-census-data-uninsured-americans">statement issued</a> by the Fund. Public programs, Davis said, covered 4.4 million more people in 2008 than in 2007, including an additional 3 million covered by Medicaid. <br /><br />The good news in the data, Davis said, is that the rate of uninsured children, 9.9 percent, is at its lowest rate since 1987—an improvement that reflects increased coverage for children under government health insurance programs. Certain state coverage efforts are also reflected in the new data. Massachusetts, which enacted health reform in April 2006, had the lowest uninsured rate in the nation in 2008—5.5 percent. <br /><br />The most alarming news in the Census release, according to Davis, is the rising number of adults under age 65 without health insurance: 20.3 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 were uninsured in 2008, up from 19.6 percent in 2007, representing an additional 1.5 million adults. The continued rise in unemployment rates in 2009 likely means many more are now uninsured. <br /><br />These numbers underscore the urgency of health reform. "As the President made clear, it is time to act to reverse this trend," Davis said in her statement. "Health reform is too important to those who are harmed by our inadequate insurance system, too important to our economy, and too important to our character as a country."