Uninsured Decline in 2007

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For the first time since 2004, the number of uninsured declined, dropping from 47 million in 2006 to 45.7 million in 2007.[i] Several factors contributed to the decrease. First, the rate of employer coverage remained relatively stable between 2006 and 2007 (although there were modest declines), most likely because of the continuation into 2007 of the economic improvements experienced between 2004 and 2006, a period in which real median income increased as the poverty rate dropped.[ii] Second, public coverage expanded between 2006 and 2007.  Health insurance reform implemented in Massachusetts during 2007 also significantly contributed to the decline in the number of uninsured nationally.[iii]


Figure: Percentage of People Without Health Insurance by State, 2006-2007 Average

But the decline in the uninsured masks a sobering reality: an estimated 50 million people were uninsured for some time during 2007.  And nearly two-thirds of adults—116 million people—were uninsured for part of the year, were underinsured, experienced problems paying their medical bills, or deferred needed health care because of its cost.[iv]
Furthermore, given the economic downturn, the 2007 decline in the number of uninsured may prove to be a minor aberration in an otherwise upward trajectory that has prevailed since 2000. The U.S. unemployment rate reached a 16-year high of 7.2 percent in December 2008[v], an increase that will almost certainly lead to a drop in employer-sponsored coverage and an increase in the number of uninsured. In fact, forecasters predict that the number of uninsured will jump by at least 2 million in 2008, and might go even higher given the unemployment outlook in late 2008.[vi]


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[i] DeNavas-Walt, C. et al. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008, pp.60-235.
[ii] Holahan, J. and A. Cook. “The Decline in the Uninsured in 2007: Why Did It Happen and Can It Last?” Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, October 2008.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Collins, S.R. et al. “Losing Ground: How the Loss of Adequate Health Insurance is Burdening Working Families: Findings from The Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Surveys, 2001-2007,” The Commonwealth Fund, August 2008.
[v] “December Jobless Rate Jumps to 7.2%,” CBS News, January 9, 2009, available at www.cbsnews.com.
[vi] Holahan, J. and A. Cook op. cit.