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Number of Uninsured Decreased in 2007 But Census Report Shows Growing Health Coverage Problems

Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Continues to Drop Even Before the Economic Downturn in 2008

The 45.7 Million Uninsured Number for 2007 Exceeds the Combined Population of 24 States Plus the District of Columbia

DENVER, Aug. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Census Bureau's annual report released today shows that the number of uninsured dropped by 1.3 million people, but the report reflects continued worsening of health coverage for America's workers.

While the uninsured numbers dropped from 47 million in 2006 to 45.7 million in 2007, the portion of the public covered by employer-sponsored health insurance continued to diminish. In 2000, the portion of the public covered by employer-sponsored insurance was 64.2 percent; in 2007 - before the economic downturn in 2008 - it was reduced to 59.3 percent.

Even with the overall drop in uninsured Americans, the 45.7 million uninsured number for 2007 exceeds the combined population of 24 states plus the District of Columbia.

The number of uninsured would have been considerably worse had it not been for the growth in public safety net health coverage. From 2006 to 2007, the number of people receiving Medicaid coverage increased by 1.3 million; Medicare coverage grew by 1 million; and military health coverage jumped by 400,000.

"It is ironic that, at the very time the Bush Administration tried to cut back Medicaid and twice vetoed legislation to extend children's health coverage, the public safety net cushioned the loss of employer-sponsored health coverage," said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. "It demonstrates the importance that the next President should protect, and not undermine, the public health safety net.

The biggest increase in Medicaid coverage occurred for children under 18 years of age. The number of children now covered by Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program grew by more than 800,000 - from 20.1 million to 20.9 million children.

"The Census report also serves to highlight a key difference between the health care reform proposals of Senators Obama and McCain," said Pollack. "Senator Obama's plan seeks to strengthen employer-sponsored health insurance, while Senator McCain's approach is designed to accelerate the erosion of health coverage in the workplace."

Senator McCain's health plan would eliminate the exemption from income taxes of the value of health coverage provided to workers by employers. Many analysts have concluded that such a change would result in a substantial diminution of employer-sponsored health coverage.

The overall number of uninsured remains considerably higher than it was at the turn of the decade. In 2000, the number of uninsured was 38.4 million. Today, the number is 7.3 million higher - an average annual increase of 1 million. For each year since 2000, except for the latest annual figures, the number of uninsured has increased.

"As employer-sponsored health coverage continues to erode," said Pollack, "it is important that meaningful health care reform becomes the top and earliest domestic priority of the next President and Congress."

Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is nonprofit and nonpartisan and advocates for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

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