Census Paints Bleak Portrait of Poverty & Lack of Insurance – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

The portrait revealed by the data released today by the
U.S. Census Bureau
was bleak, underscoring the extraordinary toll the nation’s
economic downturn took on families in 2009.  A record number of people are now living in poverty and the
nation’s uninsurance rate is at the highest level since the Census started
tracking it in 1987.  In 2009,
there were more people living in poverty (43.6 million) than the Census Bureau
has ever before recorded in its 51 years of tracking these data.  The number of impoverished children
jumped by 1.4 million to 15.4 million.

Many also had to face the harsh reality of becoming
uninsured when they lost their jobs or their employers could no longer offer
health benefits due to the economic climate. More than 50 million people reported no health insurance
coverage in 2009, which translates into an uninsured rate of 16.7 percent.

In the midst of this bleak landscape, Medicare and its
companion program, Medicaid, provided some stability to our nation’s seniors
and children.  The new data show
that the uninsured rate among children held steady at 10 percent.  The number ticked up slightly to 7.5
million, but this was not a statistically significant jump. Credit for this
good news for children goes to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance
Program (CHIP), which provided families with affordable coverage options.  This coverage was available because of
the hard work of state and federal government leaders and advocates who worked
to successfully maintain a lifeline to uninsured children during tough economic

We all know, though, that the health and wellbeing of
children depends on whether they have access to quality, affordable health
coverage. Children’s wellbeing can also be dramatically affected by the health
and income of their parents
.  Building a more stable source of health coverage for their parents and
other adults in their lives, as envisioned in the full implementation of the
Affordable Care Act, will fill a critical gap for struggling families. And with
so many families yet to find solid footing in the wake of the economic crisis,
it will be crucial to maintain access for children to Medicaid and CHIP in the
months ahead.

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