Policy-ish

Ranks Of The Uninsured Keep Growing

The U.S. census' estimates of how many people in the country don't have health insurance won't be done until late summer, but the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is out today with a snapshot of its own. And the findings aren't pretty.

Based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, CDC figures 46.3 million people — just over 15 percent of the population — ┬álacked health insurance when surveyed last year. In the 2008 survey, 43.8 million were uninsured at the time of their interview.

Uninsured

Percentage of people interviewed shown. NPR hide caption

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Nearly 60 million, or just under 1 in 5 people, had been uninsured at some point during the year. And nearly 33 million people had been uninsured for more than a year at the time they were interviewed.

The ranks of the uninsured would have been worse had public programs not picked up people who lost private insurance coverage. Public coverage of children grew from 34.2 percent in 2008 to 37.3 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, the percentage of adults covered by private plans fell, from 68.1 percent in 2008 to 65.8 percent in 2009, no doubt the result of the recession.

And even those who retained their coverage found themselves paying more. Last year, according to the survey, more than 1 in 5 people were in a "high deductible health plan," meaning they were on the hook for at least $1,150 in health costs for an individual and $2,300 for a family before the insurance kicked in.

Among the people with high deductibles, 6.3 million also had a companion Health Savings Account — a tax-favored savings plan from which to pay medical bills.

That's a considerably smaller figure than the one touted by the insurance industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans. That could be because AHIP only counts health plans that could be combined with a Health Savings Account, while the CDC researchers asked people if they actually had such an account.

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