Thursday, September 16, 2010

qotd: 4.3 million more without insurance

U.S. Census Bureau
September 2010

Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009

Health Insurance Coverage in the United States

Highlights

* The percentage of people without health insurance increased to 16.7 percent in 2009 from 15.4 percent in 2008. The number of uninsured people increased to 50.7 million in 2009 from 46.3 million in 2008.

* The number of people with health insurance decreased to 253.6 million in 2009 from 255.1 million in 2008. This is the first year that the number of people with health insurance has decreased since 1987, the first year that comparable health insurance data were collected. The number of people covered by private health insurance decreased to 194.5 million in 2009 from 201.0 million in 2008. The number of people covered by government health insurance increased to 93.2 million in 2009 from 87.4 million in 2008.

* Between 2008 and 2009, the percentage of people covered by private health insurance decreased from 66.7 percent to 63.9 percent. The percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance decreased to 55.8 percent in 2009, from 58.5 percent in 2008. The percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance is the lowest since 1987, the first year that comparable health insurance data were collected. The number of people covered by employment-based health insurance decreased to 169.7 million in 2009, from 176.3 million in 2008.

* The percentage of people covered by government health insurance programs increased to 30.6 percent in 2009, from 29.0 percent in 2008. This is the highest percentage of people covered by government health insurance programs since 1987. The percentage and number of people covered by Medicaid increased to 15.7 percent or 47.8 million in 2009, from 14.1 percent or 42.6 million in 2008. The percentage and number of people covered by Medicaid is the highest since 1987. The percentage and number of people covered by Medicare in 2009 (14.3 percent and 43.4 million) were not statistically different from 2008.

* In 2009, 10.0 percent of children under 18, or 7.5 million, were without health insurance. These estimates were not statistically different from the 2008 estimates. The uninsured rate for children in poverty (15.1 percent) was greater than the rate for all children.

* Between 2008 and 2009, the uninsured rate and the number of uninsured for non-Hispanic Whites increased from 10.8 percent and 21.3 million to 12.0 percent and 23.7 million. The uninsured rate and the number of uninsured for Blacks increased from 19.1 percent and 7.3 million to 21.0 percent and 8.1 million.

* The percentage and number of uninsured Hispanics increased to 32.4 percent and 15.8 million in 2009, from 30.7 percent and 14.6 million in 2008.


Census Bureau press release:

PNHP press release:


Comment:

Highlights of the 2009 health insurance highlights:

* Uninsured increased to 50.7 million - 16.7 percent of the population

* Private insurance decreased to 194.5 million - 63.9 percent

* Employment-based insurance decreased to 169.7 million - 55.8 percent

* Medicaid increased to 47.8 million - 15.7 percent

* Uninsured children remain at 7.5 million

* Racial and ethnic disparities in coverage have compounded

Those who oppose government solutions to the health care crisis will likely pass these worsening numbers off as an expected consequence of the sputtering economy and the new age of unemployment. They will pay little heed to the fact that the numbers are still intolerable when the economy is thriving; that isn't their concern.

Supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will no doubt be disturbed by these numbers, but it is very likely that they will make the most of them in selling PPACA by showing how it will dramatically reduce the numbers of uninsured. That is true. Many will be covered by Medicaid and by private health plans, even if far too many will still remain uninsured.

This Census Bureau report remains silent on one of the most important issues in health insurance - the numbers who are underinsured - those who will face financial hardship should medical needs arise.

PPACA is an underinsurance program. Employers will see little relief and will expand their present trend of shifting more insurance and health care costs onto their employees. Individuals buying plans in the new insurance exchanges will select underinsurance products with low actuarial values (30 to 40 percent of costs to be paid by the patient) with subsidies that are inadequate to avoid financial hardship. Many will move into the Medicaid program which has more expansive coverage, but which reimburses providers at such a low rate that far too many will not be willing to accept patients under this program. With Medicaid chasing away providers, it too has become another form of underinsurance.

Thus the touted increase in insurance enrollment under PPACA will be more than offset by the explosion in underinsurance - affecting the majority of Americans. At this point looking forward, this nefarious outcome is not obvious to most. But as underinsurance sneaks up on us, and more and more individuals are feeling the pain, they'll be ready. Ready for what? Ready for an improved Medicare that will always be there for us - in both good and bad economic times.

The PNHP press release (link above) provides a reality-based perspective of just what these numbers mean.

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