According to a survey released Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 46.3 million Americans, or about 15.4%, did not have health insurance coverage in 2009, representing a slight increase from 2008. Nearly 60 million, or one in five, had gaps in insurance coverage over the course of the year, according to the survey data.
The new healthcare reform bill should help. When fully implemented in 2014, healthcare will expand to cover more than 32 million uninsured Americans.
The data report is based on statistics from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Three measures were included in the survey: those uninsured at the time of interview, those uninsured at least part of the year and those uninsured for more than a year. Estimates from both public and private insurance coverage are provided.
Among all adults, the rate of private health insurance coverage fell from 68.1% in 2008 to 65.8% in 2009. Adults between the ages of 18-24 were the most likely to be uninsured. Thankfully, changes in health care that are underway have paved the way for greater coverage for the younger population. Healthcare reform passed in March allows young adults to remain on their parents’ plans longer.
Although the figures of those uninsured included 6 million children under the age of 18, the rate of insured children actually improved since 2008. Even poor children were more likely to have insurance than in the previous CDC report, mostly because the rate of children covered by a public plan such as Medicaid increased from 34.2% to 37.7%.
The number of uninsured adults was also measured at the state level. One in four persons under the age of 65 lacked health coverage in Florida and Texas, and one in five lacked coverage in California and Georgia. Massachusetts had the lowest rate of uninsured adults at 3.7%.
Of those 46.3 million people uninsured when surveyed, 10.9% had been uninsured for over one year. For some, the situation is desperate. CBS and CNN News reported last week about Kathy Myers, an uninsured Michigan woman who shot herself in the shoulder in an attempt to get medical care. She had injured her rotator cuff and spent a month in pain without medical assistance other than over-the-counter medication. Her hope was that the self-inflicted injury would lead to surgery to repair the injured shoulder.
A recent Harvard Medical School study found that nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year in part because they lack health insurance and cannot get good care. Those without insurance are also less likely to get preventive care and often delay care until a condition becomes serious.
Cohen RA, et al "Health insurance coverage: Early release of estimates from the National Health Interview Survey 2009" NCHS Brief 2010.