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"Health Insurance: Who Has Coverage, Who Doesn't?"

Written by:

David Johnson, Chief, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division

In recent months you’ve probably heard figures cited on news broadcasts countless times on the number of people who do not have health insurance. Every year, these figures are released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

So how many of us lack coverage now? In 2009, the number was 50.7 million (16.7 percent of the resident population). Both numbers are up from 2008, when we had 46.3 million without coverage ─ 15.4 percent.

The rate varies widely among different groups. About 12 percent of non-Hispanic whites lacked coverage; for Hispanics, the rate was more than 32 percent. Ten percent of children under 18 lacked coverage, but more than 30 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 did.

The Census Bureau has published numbers on health insurance coverage since 1987. Notably, 2009 marks the first year in which the number of people with health insurance has declined, as it dropped to fewer than 254 million. This can be attributed, in part, to the fact the percentage of people covered by private insurance ─ usually provided through an employer ─ is now the lowest since that year.

Each year, we ask roughly 78,000 households about whether they had any coverage during the previous calendar year in the Current Population Survey. This is the source of the numbers used as the nation determines the course to follow on this issue. The information you give in answering our surveys helps policymakers, advocacy groups and think tanks understand the extent of the lack of health insurance.

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