Study: One in Three Americans Under Age 65 Lacked Health Coverage in 2007-2008

Editor's note: the following is from a report released in March by Families USA. You can download the full report (PDF) here.

As the recession worsens, America’s businesses and families are feeling the squeeze of these tough economic times. Unemployment is at its highest rate in decades, and economic forecasts suggest that troubles are likely to continue for many months to come. At the same time, the cost of health coverage continues to rise, and millions of Americans remain uninsured, with more workers losing their jobs and the health insurance that they rely on with each passing week.

For too long, the story has been the same: Health reform is the topic of much political and policy discussion, but meaningful action to cover the uninsured fails to occur. And thus the crisis continues, leaving millions of Americans at risk—unless policy makers act to ensure that all Americans have health coverage.

To find out how many people are affected by being uninsured, Families USA commissioned The Lewin Group to analyze data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) and its Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), as well as from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), which is conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This analysis found that 86.7 million people—one out of every three Americans under the age of 65—was uninsured for some period of time during 2007 and 2008. These Americans have had to pay for medical care out of their own pockets, or they have had to delay needed care altogether.

Who are these uninsured Americans? No one is protected from the risk of uninsurance. People in all age groups, of every race and ethnicity, and across all income ranges are affected. While most of us have health insurance through our jobs, four out of five uninsured Americans are from working families. Many of these working families are at great risk today as more and more workers get laid off and lose their ability to retain health coverage.

This report offers a closer look at the number of uninsured Americans, who they are, and how long they are uninsured. We also discuss the major underlying reasons for the growth in the number of uninsured.

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