A record 49.9 million Americans were without health insurance during 2010, up almost 2% from the 49.0 million uninsured in 2009, the Census Bureau reported.
The percentage of the population without insurance rose 0.2 percentage points, from 16.1% to 16.3%, though this was not significant at the P<0.1 level, the agency said. Results from the agency's 2010 Current Population Survey also found increases in the number of Americans living below the poverty level (46.2 million versus 43.6 million in 2009) as well as declines in inflation-adjusted median household income. The proportion of the population with private health insurance overall also declined, as did the proportion with insurance provided by employers. In a statement, the Census Bureau indicated that these trends were outgrowths of the recent recession, even though the economy was officially in recovery during 2010. The agency noted that the first years after previous recessions were also typically marked by increases in poverty rates and declining income and health coverage. Regionally, the biggest increase in being uninsured occurred in the Northeast, jumping 0.6 percentage points from the previous year, to 12.4%. But the 2010 rate was still lower than for any other region. Southern states, on the other hand, had the highest overall uninsured rate, at 19.1%, but this was actually a slight drop from 2009 when the rate stood at 19.2%. Ironically, individuals with jobs were more likely to be uninsured than the population as a whole. The survey found that, among people 18 to 64 years old who worked at some point during 2010, 28.0 million (19.5%) lacked health insurance. Also, people with disabilities were hit hard in 2010. Whereas 16.0% lacked health coverage in 2009, last year the figure rose to 17.3%. Other results from the survey concerning health insurance included: * Percent covered by private health insurance: 64.0% in 2010, down from 64.5% in 2009 * Percent covered by employer-based plans: 55.3% in 2010, down from 56.1% in 2009 * Percent covered by Medicaid only: 11.2% in both years In the Current Population Survey, lack of health insurance is supposed to mean that respondents had no coverage at any time during the year. The Census Bureau said the survey includes a series of questions meant to confirm the complete lack of insurance, but it acknowledged that misunderstandings by respondents are common. Consequently, the survey's final tally "more closely approximates the number of people who were uninsured at a specific point in time during the year than the number of people uninsured for the entire year," according to a disclaimer in the report. John Gever is senior editor at MedPage Today.