New US Census data released today includes information on income, poverty, and health insurance collected in 2010. The data showed an increase in the number of people who were uninsured, the number of people with health insurance increased to 256.2 million in 2010 from 255.3 million in 2009.
Between 2009 and 2010, the percentage of people covered by private health insurance declined from 64.5 percent to 64.0 percent, and as a result more people turned to public programs, as evidenced by the growth in the percentage covered by government health insurance increasing from 30.6 percent to 31.0 percent. The percentage covered by employment-based health insurance declined from 56.1 percent to 55.3 percent.
This decline in coverage has been most impactful in California, home to 6.987 million uninsured. Over last three years, 18.9% of Californians uninsured; Over last two years, that number is 19.4%
Other data indicated that median income decreased and the number of people in poverty increasing to a record high of 46.2 million, the highest recorded in the 52 year history of poverty data collection. Meanwhile, income inequality also increased. Both income and income inequality are important determinants of health.
This data provides overwhelming evidence of the importance of aggressively moving forward with federal health reform efforts, and stopping any efforts at rolling back provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Though the most significant provisions of the law do not go into effect federally until 2014, California can and must build on efforts to address the issue now.
California can help address the crisis by enacting recently-passed state laws to further implement health reform. In addition, counties can take advantage of new opportunities to draw down federal funds to begin to expand coverage, in anticipation of the new provisions in 2014. The new county-level Low-Income Health Programs can provide a bridge to health reform and help reduce this staggering figure.