The number of Americans without health insurance reached 47 million last year, up from 44.8 million in 2005, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The percentage of individuals without health insurance also rose from 15.3% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2006.
This rise includes an increase in the number of uninsured children. The percentage and number of children under age 18 without health insurance increased from 8 million (10.9%) in 2005 to 8.7 million (11.7%) in 2006. Much of the increase in the uninsured rate for children can be attributed to a decline in private coverage, David Johnson, chief of the division of housing and household economic statistics at the Census Bureau, said during a news conference.
Overall, the percentage of individuals covered by any type of private insurance plan dropped from 68.5% in 2005 to 67.9% in 2006. And among children, the percentage with private coverage fell from 65.8% in 2005 to 64.6% in 2006, Mr. Johnson said.
At the same time, coverage by government insurance was also down from 27.3% in 2005 to 27% in 2006. The data are compiled from the 2007 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
The increase in the number of uninsured individuals between 2005 and 2006 is “pretty shocking,” said Karen Davis, Ph.D., president of The Commonwealth Fund, especially in a year when states have been under less financial pressure and many have been trying to expand coverage.
The deterioration of dependent coverage among private plans is particularly disturbing and points to the importance of reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) with adequate funding, she said.
The number and percentage of uninsured children had been falling consistently between 1998 and 2004 but that progress began to reverse in 2005, said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. These latest data from the Census Bureau show that the country is “losing significant ground” in insuring children, he said, and he called on President Bush to rethink his position on funding for SCHIP.