KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Number Of Uninsured Americans Drops By 1.3 million

New census data shows that for the first time since 2007, the number of Americans without health insurance declined. However, high rates of poverty persisted.

The Washington Post: Number Of Uninsured Americans Drops By 1.3 Million, Census Report Shows
One spot of good news in the census data released Wednesday was on the health-care front: For the first time in three years, the share of Americans without health insurance declined, with the number of uninsured dropping by 1.3 million people from 2010 to 2011. A major factor was an influx of newly insured young adults, many of whom benefitted from a provision in the 2010 health-care law requiring insurers to let parents keep adult children on their plans up to age 26 (Aizenman, 9/12).

NewsHour: More Americans Insured: What's Behind The Numbers?
According to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, about 48.6 million people were uninsured last year, down from 49.9 million in 2010. The rate fell, too, from 16.3 percent of the U.S. population uninsured in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011. That's the biggest percentage drop since 1999. Why the coverage increase? For the fifth consecutive year, there was an upswing in the number of people covered by government health insurance -- primarily the Medicare and Medicaid programs -- rose from 31.2 percent in 2010 to 32.2 percent last year. The rate of private health insurance remained stable in 2011, not declining for the first time in the last decade. And the percentage of young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 fell 2.2 percent, from 29.8 percent in 2010 to 27.7 percent in 2011. That's the second consecutive year that the uninsured rate for the age group has fallen by more than 2 percent. Democrats attribute the latter to the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance companies to allow young adults to stay on their parents' health plans through their 26th birthday (Kane, 9/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: US Poverty Rate At 15 Percent In 2011; Record Numbers Of Poor Persist
The share of Americans without health coverage fell from 16.3 percent to 15.7 percent, or 48.6 million people. It was the biggest decline in the number of uninsured since 1999, helped in part by increased coverage for young adults under the new health care law that allows them to be covered under their parents' health insurance until age 26. The number of people covered by employment-based health plans also edged up from 169.4 million to 170.1 million, the first time in 10 years that the rate of private insurance coverage did not fall. Meanwhile, government health insurance including Medicaid, Medicare and the Children's Health Insurance Program increased for the fifth consecutive year, adding coverage to more than three million people (9/12).

Kaiser Health News: Census: Uninsured Numbers Decline As More Young Adults Gain Coverage
Surprising some experts and giving President Barack Obama a potential boost eight weeks before Election Day, the number of people without health insurance fell for the first time since 2007, the Census Bureau said Wednesday (Galewitz, 9/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Household Income Sinks To '95 Level
Other measures of well-being in the report were more positive. The poverty rate, which had risen in the past four years, held steady in 2011, and the number and share of people without health insurance fell. The shift in health coverage is in large part due to more Americans getting covered by government programs, such as Medicare. … Health care is one area where Americans on the whole notched gains in 2011. However, the rise in insurance coverage is likely to fuel the debate about the government's growing role in health care and the expanding budget deficits that have accompanied increases in entitlement spending (Dougherty and Mathews, 9/12).

The New York Times: U.S. Incomes Dropped Last Year, Census Bureau Says
There was a bright spot for President Obama. The share of 19- to 25-year-olds who were uninsured declined by 2.2 percentage points in 2011, a decrease that administration officials are likely to promote as an early success of its health care law (Tavernise, 9/12).

Reuters: Wider Health Coverage Spurred By Reform, Income Decline
Some 1.3 million more Americans had health insurance in 2011, as healthcare reform helped blunt a decade-long decline in private coverage and government safety nets expanded to cover growing numbers of the poor, elderly and disabled. Census Bureau data released on Wednesday showed that the number of uninsured shrank to 48.6 million people from 50 million in 2010, leaving 15.7 percent of the U.S. population without the most reliable means to pay for doctors, hospitals and life-saving procedures including cancer screenings (Morgan, 9/12).

Politico: W.H. Takes Credit For Health Coverage Boost
According to new Census Bureau numbers released Wednesday, the rate of Americans without health insurance decreased to 15.7 percent last year, down from 16.3 percent in 2010. The number of people without coverage also decreased to 48.6 million in 2011, down from 50 million in 2010, the office reported. That’s partly because of an increase in coverage through federal programs. But the Census Bureau also says that about 40 percent of young adults, ages 19 to 25, who were newly covered over the past two years gained that through their parents’ health plans. Young adults experienced a 2.2 percent decrease in the uninsured rate. The rate also decreased among seniors. And for the first time in the past decade, the rate of private health insurance didn’t decrease last year. In a White House blog post, the Obama administration said the new figures prove the Affordable Care Act is working (Millman, 9/12).

Bloomberg: Americans Without Health Insurance Decline, Census Says
The number of Americans without health insurance fell for the first time since 2007, as many younger than age 26 took advantage of a new law allowing them to stay on their parents’ plans.  About 540,000 more young people were insured in 2011, helping reduce the proportion of uninsured people to 15.7 percent, the Census Bureau said today in a report. About 48.6 million people were uninsured last year, compared with 49.9 million in 2010, the largest numerical drop since at least 1999, according to Census data (Wayne, 9/12).

Medpage Today: More People Had Health Insurance Last Year
The percentage of Americans without health insurance fell from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday. That equates to 48.6 million uninsured Americans in 2011, down from 2010's record high of 49.9 million. The agency noted that the largest -- and statistically significant -- declines were among those ages 19 to 25 (-2.2 percent), 35 to 44 (-0.9 percent), and 65 and older (-0.3 percent). The decline in uninsured status among 19-to 25-year-olds "can be attributed to children being on their parent's plan," noted David Johnson, PhD, of the Census Bureau, on a conference call with reporters. A provision of the Affordable Care Act, which took effect in late 2010, allows children to stay on their parents' health plans until they reach age 26 (Petrochko, 9/12).

Meanwhile, here is a sampling of local coverage regarding the Census Bureau's findings -

Kansas Health Institute News: Kansas Uninsured Rate Climbs While Nation's Declines
The number of Kansans without health insurance continued to increase last year but the number of Americans who lacked coverage declined for the first time since the start of the recession. According to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 365,000 Kansans were uninsured in 2010-2011 compared to about 350,000 in 2009-2010. The increase was enough to bump the state’s uninsured rate up to 13.1 percent from 12.8 percent (McLean, 9/12).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Rates Of Uninsured Drop, Insurance Premiums Rise Modestly
The number of Americans without health insurance fell to 48.6 million last year, or 15.7 percent of the population, the first drop since 2007, according to new U.S. Census numbers released today. At the same time, a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that health insurance premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $15,745 this year. That’s up 4 percent over last year, but a more modest increase than in previous years when health costs far outpaced earnings. The average family pays nearly $4,500 a year for its share of health insurance costs, according to the 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey. The costs for individuals rose by 3 percent. Since 2002, premiums have increased 97 percent, three times as fast as wages, which rose 33 percent, and racing ahead of inflation, which rose 28 percent in the same period (Kerwin McCrimmon and Kaiser Health News, 9/12).

The Dallas Morning News: U.S. Report: Texans’ Income Rises, But Large Percentage Still Poor, Uninsured
Texas families squeaked out a tiny increase  in real income last year, defying a downward national trend. But Texas still had the dubious distinction of having the highest share of its people lacking health insurance, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday….As was true nationally, the percentage of Texans without health insurance coverage decreased, from 24.6 percent in 2010 to 23.8 percent last year. But that was not a big enough decline for Texas to shake its longtime No. 1 ranking as the state with the biggest share of its people uninsured. It was followed by Nevada, at 22.6 percent; Louisiana, 20.8 percent; and Florida, 19.8 percent (Garrett, 9/12).

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Minnesota's Uninsured Rate Rises To 9.5 Percent, Below National Average
The share of Minnesotans lacking health insurance grew to 9.5 percent during the two-year period that ended last year, with declines in employer-sponsored coverage apparently outpacing gains in government-backed insurance. The rate increased by 1.3 percentage points over the state's uninsured rate during 2008-2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's annual report on income, poverty and health insurance, released Wednesday, Sept. 12….Since the 2000-2001 period, the share of Minnesota residents who lack health insurance has grown by nearly 3 percentage points, said Christina Wessel, deputy director of the Minnesota Budget Project, a St. Paul-based nonprofit group that studies budget and tax issues (Snowbeck, 9/12).

Georgia Health News: Ga. Uninsured Rate Remains High; U.S. Number Dips
The U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday that the estimated number of Americans without health insurance in 2011 fell from almost 50 million, or 16.3 percent,  to 48.6 million, or 15.7 percent. It’s the first drop in that uninsured number since 2007. Georgia’s three-year average of uninsured, meanwhile, has hit 19.7 percent, the fifth-highest rate in the country, the Census Bureau figures showed (Miller, 9/12).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.