Statestats: The American Uninsured Crisis: May 2009

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Rising health costs, a sagging economy and dwindling tax revenue are renewing concern over the growing uninsured population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 45.7 million people, or 17.1 percent of the population under age 65, did not have health insur-ance in 2007. This percentage has been rising steadily at a rate of 0.25 percent each year over the previous two decades (except for a 2 percent decrease after the Children’s Health Insurance Program began in 1998). This rise reflects premiums that increased at four times the rate of inflation over the past decade, while worker earnings remained even with inflation. By some estimates, the number of uninsured climbed to more than 49 million by January 2009, because of increases in unemployment. 

The typical uninsured person is young and poor yet employed full-time. In fact, 69 percent of the uninsured are in households with at least one full-time worker, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Those who lack insurance pay with their health. Children without insurance are less likely to receive immunizations or treatment for serious childhood illnesses and miss more days of school, according to the Institute of Medicine. Uninsured adults are less likely to receive screenings to detect cancer early or to monitor chronic diseases. Even those with insurance are affected, often finding it harder to locate providers in areas with large uninsured populations.