The Census Bureau shows a little glimmer of hope for health reform as it released its 2011 numbers on Wednesday. For the first time since 2007, the population of uninsured Americans fell, presenting the largest decline since 1999. The census report showed that 48.6 million Americans were uninsured in 2011, as opposed to 49.9 million in the previous year. Thus, the rate of uninsured was lowered to 15.7 percent from 16.3 percent, which is the greatest drop in percentage since 1999.
Officials from the Census Bureau credited the decline to a few key factors, including the fact that more Americans were receiving government health coverage through Medicaid. Also, the percentage of individuals with private coverage did not decrease for the first time in ten years. The number of those with private policies remained at a consistent 63.9 percent last year, while government programs like Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, and military plans, increased for the fifth year in a row to 32.2 percent.
Some health experts also attributed a considerable amount of the change to the Affordable Care Act’s extension of coverage for children on their parents’ policies until age 26. According to several surveys, about 3 million young adults took advantage of the ability to stay a dependent.
As Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have been assisting many throughout the recession, the programs have made an impact on children’s coverage. The number of children without health insurance has dropped by about 306,000 from 2010 to 2011, now there are 7 million children in America without health coverage.
With 1.3 million more people insured over the year of 2011, it is a somewhat positive outcome for our nation and for health reform. We still have a long way to go, however. As government programs seemed to cause the majority of the coverage increase, it is an indicator of how much we depend on our government in difficult financial times. Medicaid enrollment elevated from 48.5 million in 2010 to 50.8 million in 2011, proving the dire need for public programs as our economy struggles to stabilize.
“The increase in public coverage and no statistical change in private coverage may account for the increase in overall coverage,” David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division, told reporters.
48.6 million uninsured Americans is a significant figure, remaining the third highest amount our nation has ever experienced, and is 4.5 million over the amount in 2007. According to Paul Ginsburg, the president of the Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington, “tens of millions of Americans are uninsured because health care and health insurance are getting more expensive and worker’s wages aren’t keeping up.”
Ginsburg also reported that the main reason so many people are uninsured is due to the cost of insurance, especially premiums, has increased more rapidly than people’s incomes have. The bad state of the economy over the last five years gave a boost to the overall number of people without insurance since 2007. Even group health insurance has nearly doubled in cost over the last decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.