As Congress debated health overhaul last year, a big part of the discussion was exactly how big a problem the uninsured are.
Well, the latest data are pretty grim. For the first time since 1987, the number of people in this country with health insurance went down.
In 2009, 253.6 million people in this country had coverage compared with 255.1 million the year before, says a report on poverty just out from the U.S. Census Bureau. All told, 50.7 million Americans didn't have health insurance last year.
Now that health overhaul is law, Americans will have to get covered or pay a penalty, starting in 2014. Unless legal challenges to the insurance mandate prevail. By 2019, the law is expected to extend coverage to some 32 million Americans who wouldn't otherwise have it.
The report also found:
- At almost 31 percent, the proportion of people covered by government insurance is the highest since 1987 — with 15.7 percent covered by Medicaid. According to Gallup, the percentage of people with government health insurance has been steadily growing since the start of the recession.
- Ten percent of children had no health insurance in 2009. Among children in poverty, 15.1 percent were uninsured.
- Among households with incomes of less than $25,000 a year, almost 27 percent were uninsured.