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September 2008

Through a Shift to Public Insurance, Fewer U.S. Residents Lacked Coverage in 2007

The U.S. Census Bureau reported on August 26 that the number of uninsured Americans fell to 45.7 million in 2007 from 47.0 million in 2006. According to the report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007, this decrease of 1.3 million is primarily due to an increase in government-sponsored coverage of individuals through Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). 

The number of people covered by government health insurance increased from 80.3 million to 83 million. Notably, despite the overall decrease in the number of uninsured, the percentage of people with private insurance actually decreased, with a drop from 67.9 percent to 67.5 percent between 2006 and 2007. Along these same lines, the percentage of people with employer-based coverage decreased from 59.7 percent to 59.3 percent. As Henry E. Simmons, president of the National Coalition on Health Care, explained this shift from private insurance to government health insurance is of concern given that it, “may be difficult to sustain and expand as economic growth falters and pressures on federal and state budgets intensify.”

The report also looked at regional and state insurance rates. The Northeast and Midwest had uninsured rates of 11.4 percent each. This is lower than the rates in the West and South, 16.9 percent and 18.4 percent, respectively. Texas, with approximately 24.4 percent, has the highest uninsured rate among all the states.

The State Heath Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) hosted their 6th Annual Current Population Survey (CPS) Conference Call on August 27 with Charles T. Nelson from the U. S. Census Bureau. Highlights from the call included a summary of the major findings, an exploration of measurement issues and questions from participants, answered by Nelson.