U.S. Uninsurance Rate Jumps 13% in 2 Years

The number of people officially recognized as having no healthcare insurance coverage in the United States has jumped from 46 million in 2007 to 52 million in 2009. The Center for American Progress reported in May that the rate of uninsurance was up substantially in all 50 states. The rate of increase, based on research from the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, means the rate at which uninsurance is increasing in the US is without precedent.

Acceleration in the rate of total uninsurance (having zero coverage, either private or public) may be attributable to the recession, which began in December of 2007. Having entered recession, according to official determinations, in December 2007, the US economy may have started seeing fallout from underlying flaws in the economic landscape earlier that year, possibly by summer. The escalating costs of health insurance, at rates of growth which economists now believe are unsustainable, likely pushed people off employer-paid care.

California and Nevada now have 23% of their populations with zero health insurance coverage. Florida has 25%, and Texas 28%. There are 6.24 million people in Texas with no health insurance coverage, 7.7 million in California. There are 129 nations in the world whose entire population is smaller than the number of Californians with no access to healthcare. Even the much smaller New Jersey, with 17% of its population uninsured, has more people without health insurance —1.33 million— than 71 nations have total inhabitants.

As reported by the Center for American Progress [PDF]:

It’s important to point out that the national average increase obscures the unprecedented increase that some states have seen over the last two years, including a 22-percent increase in North Carolina, and Indiana, and a 21-percent increase in Nevada. Approximately 890,000 more people are uninsured in California, 551,000 more people are uninsured in Texas, and 506,000 more people are uninsured in Florida than in 2007.

The figures mean the existing health insurance system is failing at rates that are crisis-level and accelerating. Some blame insurance company executive policies that have shifted the way of deriving insurance profits from the insurance business itself to parallel investments and even financial derivatives. Others say insurers have too long sold policies they were not able to fulfill with established premium intake, a strategy that pushed up sales, but eventually also drove up premiums to untenable highs.

The jump in uninsured Americans now means added budgetary pressure on states, which report a significant increase in the number of people seeking Medicaid reimbursement, due to their inability to qualify for or to pay for private insurance coverage. Massachusetts, specifically, was not included in the overall study, because its version of universalized healthcare coverage exempts the state from some of the particular trends seen in the other 49 states.

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