The U.S. Census Bureau today released its health insurance data for 2007. These figures once again paint a bleak picture for health insurance in the United States. While there were some gains in health coverage last year, the data show there is little to celebrate since the beginning of the last economic expansion in 2000. Specifically:
- There are more uninsured in the United States. For those under 65 (and therefore not eligible for Medicare), the number of uninsured stands at 45.0 million in 2007, 6.8 million more than in 2000. That’s a rate of 17.1 percent uninsured for 2007 versus 15.5 million uninsured for 2000.
- Employer-sponsored coverage is eroding. Most Americans obtain their health insurance through their employer. But skyrocketing costs have made it difficult for employers to offer, and employees to afford, benefits. The number of persons with employer coverage dropped to 177.4 million for all Americans in 2007, down from 179.4 million in 2000. The rate of employer coverage, at 59.3 percent for all Americans in 2007, is down from 64.2 percent 2000. Yet 37 million (or 81 percent) of the uninsured were employed in 2007.
- The number of uninsured children is virtually flat. The number of uninsured children stands at 8.1 million, a decrease of 236,000 since 2000. The percentage of uninsured children, however, is the same as in 2003 at 11 percent. David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau’s statistics division, told reporters today that enrollment increases in government programs have served to maintain coverage levels for children in the face of eroding employer-sponsored coverage.
- More newly uninsured were created than newly employed during the Bush administration. The Bush administration has created 5.9 million uninsured versus just 5.6 million new jobs between 2001 and 2007.
Impact of McCain’s Policies
Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) plan will make it even more difficult for Americans to get the coverage they need. McCain has opposed growing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and would also continue and accelerate the decrease in employer coverage. Specifically, Sen, McCain:
- Opposes expanding children’s coverage. Sen, McCain voted against providing coverage to millions of low-income children and has lauded Bush’s vetoes of this important legislation. These vetoes resulted in restricted eligibility levels and federal funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
- Supports tax changes that will weaken coverage. Sen.McCain’s changes in tax policy will increase the likelihood of employers dropping health coverage. McCain’s health plan, like the Bush health insurance tax credit proposals, offers tax credits that do not cover the costs of meaningful health insurance, and these credits will decrease in value over time.
- Reduces coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Sen. McCain’s tax credits will push individuals into the poorly regulated individual insurance market where those with preexisting conditions could find themselves uninsured—and uninsurable.
Americans’ health coverage is worse now than in 2000 by any measure. Health insurance costs for Americans are skyrocketing. Tens of millions cannot get the coverage that they need. New progressive leadership and comprehensive reform is needed to reverse these trends.