Census Bureau: Percentage of Americans without health insurance falls
The number of Americans without health insurance dropped by 1.3 million in 2011 — equivalent to the population of San Diego. Last year, 48.6 million people were covered by health insurance, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Sept. 12.
“This is excellent news,” Sara Collins, Karen Davis and Tracy Garber wrote on the blog for The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care advocacy group. “The number of uninsured has increased by 12 million people over the past decade, and the latest numbers suggest an important turning point in this upward trend.”
The decline in uninsured Americans in 2011 is both unexpected and somewhat unprecedented. According to David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau’s Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, this is the largest one-year drop in the number of uninsured Americans in the past decade.
It was young adults who fared best among the ranks of insured Americans in 2011. According to Census Bureau data, the number of adults age 19 to 25 without health insurance declined to 27.7 percent in 2011 from 29.8 percent in 2010 and 31.4 percent in 2009.
Dr. Benjamin Sommers, assistant professor of health policy and economics at the Harvard School of Public Health, and other experts attribute the uptick in the number of insured young adults to the federal health care reform law, which lets young adults remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.
Other highlights of the Census Bureau data include:
- The percentage of people covered by private health insurance — 63.9 percent in 2011 — barely changed from 2010. This marks the first time in the last 10 years that the rate of private health insurance coverage did not decrease.
In a blog post for the nonpartisan Center for American Progress, Maura Calsyn and Lindsay Rosenthal called this “another hopeful trend in the data on health care coverage.”
“Contrary to the doomsday predictions by critics of the Affordable Care Act,” they wrote, “employers have not dropped coverage in anticipation of the law’s reforms going into effect in 2014. Private insurance for some groups has actually increased, even as our economy is still recovering from the recession.”
- At 55.1 percent, employee-based health insurance programs remain the most popular method of coverage. The percentage of Americans covered by employment-based health insurance in 2011 hardly budged compared with 2010.
- The percentage of people covered by government health insurance — including Medicare and Medicaid — rose to 32.2 percent in 2011 from 31.2 percent in 2010.
- In 2011, 9.7 percent of kids under 19 — or 7.6 million people — lacked health insurance. That’s on par with the figure for 2010.
- Further emphasizing the ties between poverty and health insurance, the uninsured rates in 2011 fell as household income climbed — from 25.4 percent for those in households with annual income less than $25,000 to 7.8 percent in households with income of at least $75,000.
“The decline in the number of people without health insurance in 2011 reflects the effects of the Affordable Care Act among young adults, stabilization in the share of people with employer-based coverage, and the essential role of public insurance programs in the nation’s health system,” The Commonwealth Fund said on its blog. “The gain in coverage made by young adults over the past two years is a preview of the sweeping changes we will see … go into effect just 15 months from now.”