The U.S. government reports the number of Americans without health
insurance grew last year, while poverty rates increased and household
day after President Barack Obama told a joint session of Congress that
the ranks of uninsured Americans are growing by the day, the U.S.
Census Bureau provided data underscoring the extent of the problem. In
an annual report, the Census Bureau said 46.3 million people lacked
health insurance last year, up from 45.7 million in 2007.
Census statistician David Johnson says the rise is not a one-time phenomenon.
rates of coverage for both private and employment-based [health
insurance] coverage have shown a downward trend for the last eight
years," he said.
Last year's uninsured tally might have been
worse were it not for increases in government-provided health coverage
for the poor, the elderly, and disadvantaged children.
same time, the longest and deepest recession of the post-World War II
era has eroded U.S. incomes and boosted poverty rates.
number of people in poverty increased by 2.6 million in 2008," said the
Census Bureau's David Johnson. "And the poverty rate increased from
12.5 percent to 13.2 percent the highest poverty rate since 1997."
says virtually all categories of Americans saw income declines last
year, but losses were particularly sharp for minority groups such as
Hispanics. He says income gaps between rich and poor continue to expand.
is increasing. Between 1967 and 2008, income at the 90th percentile
[top earners] increased 63 percent, while income at the 10th percentile
[bottom earners] increased by 32 percent," said Johnson.
somber as the 2008 data appear, the numbers may actually understate the
severity of the current situation when it comes to health care
coverage, income levels and poverty rates. That is because the economic
downturn that began in late 2007 grew worse this year.
Elise Gould is a health policy researcher at Washington's Economic Policy Institute.
modest increases in the uninsured are only the tip of the iceberg [a
partial accounting]," said Gould. "Given that the economy has
deteriorated significantly since 2008, the current state of health
insurance is worse than today's [Census Bureau] report shows.
Gould estimates the true number of uninsured today stands at 50 million, which would be an all-time high.
indicators are also likely to be worse than last year's numbers
suggest, according to Harvard University economist Lawrence Katz.
was not nearly as bad an economy as 2009," said Katz. "Thus, we are
likely to see further large declines in household incomes, larger
increases in poverty. We have basically seen a lost decade
[economically] for the typical American family."
project an end to the recession in coming months. But many say the
recovery will be slow and gradual, meaning that unemployment rates will
likely remain elevated and income levels stagnant for much of next