KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Census Data Trigger Discussion About Nation’s Uninsured

The data, released yesterday, also focus attention on issues of poverty in the United States, on the role of government programs and on the future of employer-sponsored insurance.

The Washington Post: Nearly One In Six In Poverty In The U.S.; Children Hit Hard, Census Says
The Census Bureau reported that 16.3 percent of Americans were without health coverage in 2010, a percentage that officials called statistically unchanged from 2009. Still, nearly 1 million more people were without insurance in 2010 than in 2009. The share of Americans with employer-based coverage continued a decade-long decline, dropping from 56 percent to 55 percent. The share of those covered by government insurance — including Medicaid, Medicare and military health care — rose slightly, to 31 percent. The percentage of children without health insurance remained statistically unchanged in 2010 but only because the large number of those who lost private coverage was largely offset by the number picked up by Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor (Fletcher, 9/13).

Kaiser Health News: Rate Of Uninsured Stays Flat In 2010, Census Reports
Nearly 50 million Americans lacking health insurance was the best economic news to come out of the bleak U.S. Census figures released today. While poverty increased, household earnings dropped and more families doubled up in living quarters, the nation's rate of people without health insurance in 2010 stayed flat at 16.3 percent of the population, statistically the same as the year before (Rau, 9/13).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Recount: Census Changes How It Estimates The Uninsured
Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated there were 50.7 million uninsured Americans in 2009. Today, it revised the figure for 2009 down to 49 million after adjusting the way it counts. What gives? (Galewitz, 9/13). 

Politico Pro: 'Why Aren't There More Uninsured?'
In 2009, as the economy struggled through job losses and the recession, 11 people became uninsured for every 10 people who became poor. But as poverty rose the following year, fewer than 4 people became uninsured for every 10 who fell into poverty. These numbers take into account revised data the Census provided this year to correct for historically overstating the number of uninsured (Feder, 9/13).

CNN Money: Number Of People Without Health Insurance Climbs
Three groups comprised the bulk of the uninsured in 2010, including foreign-born residents who are not U.S. citizens, young adults ages 19 to 25 and low-income families with an annual household income of less than $25,000. Much of the declines in insured rates in recent years can be attributed to the loss of employer-provided coverage, which fell amid sustained unemployment and as employers continued to cut back on benefits (Christie, 9/13).

PBS Newshour: Economic Check-Up Dismal for Many U.S. Families
American families continued to take an economic pounding in 2010, with median household income declining, health insurance rates remaining dreary and the number of Americans living in poverty reaching a 52-year high, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. ... While the number of people without health insurance rose from 49 million to 49.9 million in 2010, the Census reported that the percent without coverage remained fairly stable at 16.3 percent (Kane, 9/13).

NPR's SHOTS blog: The Churn Behind The Stable Rate For The Uninsured
And the trend away from private coverage and toward public coverage continued. The percentage of the population with employer-provided insurance fell to 55.3 percent, from 56.1 percent the year before. Although, before you start yelling "job-killer" about the Affordable Care Act, that was a far smaller dip than the 3-percentage-point drop reported between 2008 and 2009 (Rovner, 9/13).

The Hill: Economic Ills Led To Increase In People Without Health Insurance
The Republican Policy Committee claimed before the new data were even published that any increase in the number of uninsured was further evidence that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus didn’t work. The Obama administration for its part pointed to a significant increase in the number of insured young people as evidence that last year's health care reform law is working. The number of insured 18-to-24-year-olds increased from 70.7 percent to 72.8 percent, which the administration attributes to the law’s requirement that health care plans allow young people to stay on their parents’ coverage until age 26, provided they are unable to get employer-based coverage (Pecquet, 9/13).

CQ HealthBeat: Census Raises Question Of The Future Of Employer-Provided Insurance
While at least for the moment, a majority of Americans receive their health insurance through their employers, Census Bureau estimates released on Tuesday indicate that might not be the case for long. Even before the economic downturn began, the share of people enrolled in employer-sponsored insurance was declining. Census figures for 2010 show that it now stands at 55.3 percent, raising the prospect it may slip below the majority mark within a few years. The 2010 percentage was down just slightly from 56.1 percent in 2009 — but it’s dramatically lower than the 64 percent of Americans who had employer — sponsored coverage in the relatively buoyant days of 1999 (Norman, 9/13).

Los Angeles Times: California Poverty Rate Rises In 2010 For Fourth Year In A Row
Nearly 1 in 5 residents lacked health insurance last year, one of the highest rates in the nation. Median household income in the state, when adjusted for inflation, fell 4.6 percent to $54,459. That's the largest decline in a single year since record keeping began (Semuels and Helfand, 9/13).

The Arizona Republic: More In Arizona Lack Health Insurance
The number of Arizonans without health insurance increased slightly in 2010, with about one out of five residents lacking health coverage, according to U.S. census figures released Tuesday. The census report showed that nearly 1.3 million Arizona residents, or 19.1 percent, had no private or government-sponsored health insurance in 2010. That represented a slight increase from 18.9 percent of residents without health insurance in 2009, according to the census. Health-policy experts say that uninsured rate reflects the state's stagnant economy (Alltucker, 9/14).

CQ HealthBeat: Senate HELP Committee Asks Whether Poverty Leads To Poor Health Outcomes
A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee took on the feel of a cable television debate at times during a discussion Tuesday between Sens. Bernard Sanders and Rand Paul over whether low-income Americans have sufficient access to medical treatment. The hearing — titled "Is Poverty a Death Sentence?" — was called by self-proclaimed Socialist Sanders, I-Vt., the chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging. He argued that "poverty in America today leads not only to anxiety, unhappiness, discomfort, and a lack of material goods. It leads to death." Paul, R-Ky., who is supported by many Tea Party activists, took the opposite view by arguing that poor people typically can find medical care if they really need it (Adams, 9/13).

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