September 11th, 2009 | Posted in Aging
by Mark Mather, associate vice president, Domestic Programs
The Census Bureau released new 2008 poverty and health insurance estimates today. Poverty rates are up (no surprise there), but it’s the health insurance numbers I was most interested in. In 2008, there were 46.3 million people in the United States without health insurance. That number is only slightly higher than it was in 2007, but it’s misleading to say so. In fact, the number of children without insurance dropped sharply, from 8.1 million to 7.3 million, while the number of working-age people (18 to 64) without insurance increased, from 36.8 million to 38.3 million.
Among the working-age population, it was the part-timers who were hit the hardest. The number of part-time workers without coverage increased by more than 1 million between 2007 and 2008, the largest increase among any major population subgroup. In 2008, more than one in four part-time workers lacked health insurance, roughly the same share as those who did not work at all last year.
An increase in the number of people covered by government insurance kept the nationwide coverage rates stable from 2007 to 2008, at around 85 percent. As reported in the New York Times, this continues an eight-year trend of declining participation in private or employer-sponsored insurance programs and increasing participation in government-run programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and health care for the military. If we were to remove the 2008 increase in government insurance coverage, and assign those people to the “uninsured” category, then the overall health insurance coverage rate would have dropped 2 percentage points, to 83 percent.