Census Bureau Finds the Number of Uninsured Grew to 46.3 Million in 2008

For Immediate Release

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Dave Lemmon, Director of Communications
Geraldine Henrich-Koenis, Deputy Director of Communications
Robert Meissner, Press Secretary
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Census Bureau Finds the Number of Uninsured Grew to 46.3 Million in 2008

The Census Bureau’s 2008 Uninsured Number Significantly Understates Current Number Due to the Unemployment Surge in 2009

WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the number of people without health insurance reached 46.3 million in 2008. The following is the statement of Ron Pollack, Executive Director of the consumer health organization Families USA, about this development:  

“The Census Bureau’s finding that the number of uninsured people grew to 46.3 million in 2008 is a clear reminder that meaningful health care reform should be enacted this year.

“The Census Bureau’s 2008 data, however, substantially understate how many people lack health coverage today. That is because the unemployment rate in 2008 ranged from 4.8 to 7.2 percent, while that rate was 9.7 percent in August 2009.

“Based on previous analyses, each 1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate means that approximately 1.1 million additional people joined the ranks of the uninsured. As a result, the number of uninsured today is probably close to 50 million.

“In 2008, the number of people without health coverage exceeded the combined populations of the following 24 states plus the District of Columbia: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. 

“Today, the number of uninsured people is probably comparable to the combined populations of half the states in the United States.

“This past year, as in every year since the turn of the decade, the portion of the American population with job-based health insurance declined. In 2008, that portion was 58.5 percent, compared to 64.2 percent in 2000.

“It is not surprising, therefore, that the number of people without health insurance grew from 38.4 million people in 2000 to 46.3 million in 2008.

“Perhaps most significantly in light of the current health reform debate, public health coverage—Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, and veterans' coverage—rose from 83.0 million in 2007 to 87.4 million in 2008. Medicaid and CHIP coverage rose by 3 million. This means that public health coverage averted a huge increase in the number of Americans without health coverage.

“Although approximately one-half (46.0 percent) of the uninsured in 2008 were non-Hispanic whites, the lack of health coverage continues to be a larger problem in communities of color: 10.8 percent of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured in 2008, compared to 19.1 percent of African Americans and 30.7 percent of Hispanics.

“The new Census Bureau report should give Congress an even greater sense of urgency to enact high-quality, affordable health coverage and care for all Americans this year.”

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Families USA is a national nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Working at the national, state, and community levels, we have earned a national reputation as an effective voice for health care consumers for 25 years.

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