This morning the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the number of uninsured Americans jumped to 47 million in 2006, up from 44.8 million in 2005. In percentage terms, there were 15.8 percent of Americans without insurance in 2006, up from 15.3 percent in 2005. This also represents the sixth year in a row that the number of uninsured has risen.

The number and percentage of uninsured children also grew. In 2006, 11.7 percent (8.7 million) kids under age 18 were uninsured—up from 10.9 percent (8 million) in 2005. These new numbers are already sparking comment as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) comes up for reauthorization at the end of September.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities posted further analysis of the new data today: 

“[S]ince 2004, as funding for SCHIP has grown scarcer among states and a restrictive Medicaid policy enacted in early 2006 took effect, the number of uninsured children under 18 has climbed — from 7.7 million in 2004 to 8.7 million in 2006.”

“The number of uninsured children fell when the federal government and states worked together to increase coverage for children under SCHIP and Medicaid,” noted Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Now, progress has stalled and begun to reverse. Moreover, the Administration has announced a new policy that further weakens children’s coverage under SCHIP by placing coverage of as many as several hundred thousand children at risk.”

Families USA issued an immediate statement from Health Policy Director Kathleen Stoll:

“Today census numbers only confirm what state officials and health care advocates have seen first-hand — SCHIP resources must be increased to meet the health care needs of the increasing number of uninsured children. Congress is currently working to reauthorize the SCHIP program with enough funding to ensure that as many as 5 million uninsured kids in this country get the coverage they so desperately need.”

“Unfortunately, President Bush is poised to move in the wrong direction: Instead of finding solutions for the millions of uninsured children, he continues with the threat of a Presidential veto. President Bush should stop playing politics with the health care of millions of children and help Congress in their efforts to reduce the number of uninsured.” 

Other Census Bureau data highlights:

  • While the actual number of people with insurance increased to 249.8 million in 2006 (from 249.0 million in 2005), the percentage of Americans covered by employment-based health insurance decreased to 59.7 percent in 2006 (from 60.2 percent in 2005).
  • The percentage of Americans covered by government insurance programs also declined to 27 percent in 2006 (from 27.3 percent in 2005). Medicaid enrollment, however, remained statistically unchanged.

The Census Bureau data are from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey.

For more on the health care safety net, watch for Health Affairs’ September/October 2007 issue on the topic of “vulnerable populations.” The issue will be available in print and posted online on September 11, and is supported by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.