The grim new Census numbers…

The U.S. Census Bureau came out today with the 2008 version annual report on income, poverty and health insurance. Some findings:

* The number of people with health insurance increased from 253.4 million in 2007 to 255.1 million in 2008.
* The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008.
* Between 2007 and 2008, the number of people covered by private health insurance decreased from 202.0 million to 201.0 million, while the number covered by government health insurance climbed from 83.0 million to 87.4 million. The number covered by employment-based health insurance declined from 177.4 million to 176.3 million.
* The number of uninsured children declined from 8.1 million (11.0 percent) in 2007 to 7.3 million (9.9 percent) in 2008. Both the uninsured rate and number of uninsured children are the lowest since 1987, the first year that comparable health insurance data were collected.
* Although the uninsured rate for children in poverty declined from 17.6 percent in 2007 to 15.7 percent in 2008, children in poverty were more likely to be uninsured than all children.

California continues to be in the top ten states with the worst uninsurance rates, at 18.5%.

If President Obama’s challenge wasn’t clear enough, these new Census numbers clearly indicate we need action on health reform. In addition, these new numbers, which show California with one of the worst uninsured rates in the country, doesn’t take into account the most recent losses due to the recession, high unemployment, and budget cuts.

Californians are more likely to become uninsured than residents of all but a handful of states. Californians are less likely to get on-the-job benefits, and are more likely to be denied for pre-existing conditions. The current health reform proposals would fix these problems. If anything, the Census numbers underestimate the problem, since they only look at people who are uninsured in a given year. But we all are one life change–whether a job switch, divorce, graduation, or retirement–away from losing coverage. Those with coverage need security and stability that don’t have now to keep their coverage, and those uninsured need more affordable and accesible options–and that’s what the current proposals seek to do.

“We have to stop the vicious cycle. When costs go up, more people become uninsured. The more people who are uninsured, the harder it is for our health care system to control costs. We need our elected officials to muster the political will to make health reform happen.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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