Number of Uninsured Grew, Poverty Rate Hit Eleven-Year High in 2008, Report Finds

Number of Uninsured Grew, Poverty Rate Hit Eleven-Year High in 2008, Report Finds

According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans without health insurance increased in 2008, while the poverty rate hit an eleven-year high, the Associated Press reports.

The report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008 (74 pages, PDF), found that about 46.3 million people were uninsured last year — more than the 45.7 million who were uninsured in 2007, but just below the peak of 47 million who were uninsured in 2006. The report also found that the number of people covered by employment-based health insurance declined from 177.4 million to 176.3 million, driving the overall decreases in coverage. In contrast, those covered by government health insurance programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP climbed from 83 million to 87.4 million, with the number of uninsured children declining from 8.1 million, or 11 percent, in 2007, to 7.3 million, or 9.9 percent, in 2008.

At the same time, the nation's poverty rate increased to 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007 and the highest level since 1997, when the rate stood at 13.3 percent. Some 39.8 million people — or nearly one of seven Americans — were living in poverty in 2008, an increase of about 2.5 million people from the previous year.

Although the Census Bureau data are significant by themselves, the 2008 numbers do not capture the economic impact of the first half of 2009, when hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their jobs and health insurance. Indeed, President Obama acknowledged that the number of those without health insurance coverage may now be significantly higher.

"The situation's grown worse over the last twelve months," Obama said. "It's estimated that the ranks of the uninsured have swelled by at least 6 million."

Hope Yen. "Uninsured Rises to 46.3 Million." Associated Press 09/10/2009.