Uninsured in America continued...
President Barack Obama, who addressed a joint session of Congress on health reform Wednesday night, said Thursday of the health insurance figures, "The situation's grown worse over the last 12 months. It's estimated that the ranks of the uninsured have swelled by at least 6 million.’"
Various reform plans aim to extend coverage to most, if not all, of the uninsured. Republicans, though, have pointed out that millions without health insurance are eligible for government programs yet are not enrolled, and that millions more are in households with incomes of $75,000 or more. Many uninsured are also illegal immigrants, Sen. Orrin Hatch. R-Utah, said recently.
More Children Have Health Insurance
The health insurance data, meanwhile, show some good news: a significant decline in the number of children who are uninsured. That number fell from 8.1 million to 7.3 million in 2008. That's the lowest mark since 1987, the first year that comparable data were collected.
Many more kids gained coverage in Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Medicaid's overall enrollment swelled to 42.6 million in 2008, a jump of 3 million. "As people lost jobs and their incomes fell, they became more likely to be eligible for government coverage -- children especially,’" says Custer. "That's what the Medicaid program was designed for."
The growth in Medicaid enrollment has put severe pressure on state budgets, he says.
Job-Based Health Insurance Declines
While the number of uninsured children declined, the figure for adults rose. Many older adults below age 65 - when they're eligible for Medicare - are likely to have significant health care needs, Custer says. "Older adults need health care the most."
The troubling decline in employment-based health coverage has continued. The 2008 report showed job-based coverage dropped for the eighth year in a row -- from 59.3% of Americans in 2007 to 58.5%.
"Smaller firms will find it increasingly difficult to maintain or afford coverage," says Peter Cunningham, a senior fellow at the Center for Studying Health System Change. "It's likely we'll see an even bigger drop [in job-based coverage] next year. It will reflect the higher unemployment rate in 2009."