Number of uninsured surged during recession

The number of uninsured Americans jumped 4.4 million to 50.7 million in 2009, marking the largest annual increase since the government began collecting data in 1987, according to The Wall Street Journal. The figures confirm the recession's negative effects on health insurance coverage.

The percentage of Americans covered by private insurance in 2009 was 63.9 percent—the lowest since 1987—and 30.6 percent of Americans were covered by government programs, which was the highest number on record. Overall, the number of Americans with some form of health coverage dropped for the first time since 1987, from 255.1 million in 2008 to 253.6 million in 2009.

However, The Employment Policies Institute say the numbers may not show the complete picture; the 50.7 million uninsured Americans likely include some who can afford coverage but choose not to buy it, as well as people who could qualify for government assistance but haven't pursued it.

The number of Americans with employer-sponsored coverage dropped 6.6 million from 176.3 million in 2008 to 169.7 million in 2009. The total number of Americans with private insurance fell from 201 million to 194.5 million.

More people turned to government-provided insurance, with the number of people covered rising from 87.4 million in 2008 to 93.2 million in 2009. The number of Americans covered by Medicaid increased from 42.6 million to 47.8 million.

The decrease in the number of covered Americans suggests people lost employer-sponsored benefits at a faster rate than government programs could pick them up.

Date : 9/22/2010