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Number of Uninsured Jumped By Nearly 3 Million in 2009

Last year, 46 million U.S. adults lacked health insurance, CDC finds

WEDNESDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- For some Americans, health care reform may be arriving none too soon: The number of U.S. adults not covered by health insurance jumped by 2.9 million people from 2008 to 2009.

In 2009 -- the year in which the latest statistics are available -- 46.3 million American adults had no health insurance, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This means one in five working-age adults is uninsured, and the situation is still worse in some states: nearly one in four Texans, for example, lack any form of health coverage.

As a result, millions of Americans face an uphill battle getting the health care they need, according to the CDC.

In the United States, health insurance means access to health care, said Robin A. Cohen, a statistician with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "Although one can still obtain health care without coverage, a lack of coverage can be a barrier to obtaining needed health care," she said.

Studies have shown that people without health insurance are less likely to get preventive care and often delay care until a condition becomes serious, Cohen added.

The percentage of uninsured adults of working age climbed from 19.7 percent to 21.1 percent in 2009, and a whopping 58.5 percent of American adults went without insurance for at least part of the year.

The jump in uninsured Americans appears to be caused by the current recession and a drop in the number of employers offering health coverage. "There was a corresponding decrease in private coverage among adults, from 68.1 percent in 2008 to 65.8 percent in 2009," Cohen said. "You can connect the dots."

On a positive note, more children are covered than before, Cohen said, although millions are still going without insurance. "In 2009, 6.1 million children lacked health coverage, compared to 9.9 million children in 1997," she said. "The decline in the percent of uninsured children is attributable to the increase in the percent of children covered by public plans."

Cohen noted that the number of uninsured adults varied from state to state. For example, in Massachusetts 3.7 percent of adults were uninsured, while 24.6 percent of adults lacked health insurance in Texas.

In addition, since 2007 there has been a significant increase in the number of people with private health insurance who have high deductibles, Cohen said. That number has gone from 17.5 percent of privately insured adults in 2007 to 22.4 percent in 2009.

For people who buy their own health insurance, the number of those with high deductibles has risen from 39 percent in 2007 to almost 47 percent in 2009, Cohen said.

Sara Collins, vice president of the Program on Affordable Health Insurance at the Commonwealth Fund, said the low rate of uninsured in Massachusetts portends what health care reform will bring about for the entire country.

"The universal coverage law [in Massachusetts] is so similar to the new national health care reform law it really points to what the new reform law is likely to achieve across all states when it is fully implemented," she said.

The federal law will be go fully into effect in 2014.

"Going forward, you are not going to see the big drop-offs in coverage as you see in this recession," Collins said.

More information

For more information on health care reform, visit the Commonwealth Fund.

SOURCES: Robin A. Cohen, Ph.D., statistician, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Sara Collins, Ph.D., vice president, Program on Affordable Health Insurance, Commonwealth Fund; June 16, 2010, Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 2009

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