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Number of uninsured skyrockets to a record 50.7 million

2009 shows an inrease of 4.3 million uninsured

Official estimates by the Census Bureau showing a dramatic spike of 4.3 million in the number of Americans without health insurance in 2009—to a record 50.7 million.

The Census Bureau reported that 16.7 percent of the population lacked health insurance coverage in 2009, up from 15.4 in 2008, when 46.3 million were uninsured.

Lack of health insurance is known to have deadly consequences. Last year researchers at Harvard Medical School showed that 45,000 deaths annually can be linked to lack of coverage.

"Tragically, we know that the new figures of uninsured mean a preventable annual death toll of about 51,000 people - that's about one death every 11 minutes," said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. Young is a Chicago-based retired physician whose private medical practice once counted President Obama among its patients.

Young said that even if the administration's new health law works as planned, the Congressional Budget Office has projected about 50 million people will be uninsured for the next three years and about 23 million people will remain uninsured in 2019.

"Today's report suggests those projections are likely too low," he said.

The jump of 4.3 million uninsured is the largest one-year increase on record and would have been much higher - over 10 million - had there not been a huge expansion of public coverage, primarily Medicaid, to an additional 5.8 million people.

The rise in the number of uninsured was almost entirely due to a sharp decline in the number of people with employer-based coverage by 6.6 million. In 2009, 55.8 percent of the population had such coverage, having declined for the ninth consecutive year from 64.2 percent in 2000.

The record-breaking number of uninsured - exceeding 50 million for the first time since the Census Bureau started keeping records - includes 10 million children.

 

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