New Census uninsured numbers signal urgent need for reform


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005
New Census Numbers Showing More Americans Without Health Insurance Supports Need for Reform Now
Current Congressional efforts to address uninsured crisis
‘Tinker with deckchairs on a sinking ship’

(Washington, D.C.) – Congress should immediately rededicate itself to helping all Americans access affordable health coverage in light of today’s numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau showing 800,000 more people are without health insurance in 2004, Consumers Union said.
“Health insurance should be one of the top issues for Congress, but current legislative proposals only tinker with deckchairs on a sinking ship,” said Bill Vaughan, senior health policy analyst with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
“The census numbers tell us what we’ve known for years – that soaring health care inflation is making health insurance unaffordable, so more folks go uninsured, and those who can afford it find their policies cover less and less,” Vaughan said.
The data shows a continued deterioration in the use of employer-provided health insurance and increased reliance on Medicaid and public programs. If it had not been for more people moving into public programs, the number of uninsured would have increased another 2.3 million, the statistics show.
For 2004, the Census Bureau reported that 45.8 million people were without health coverage, up from 45 million in the previous year. Other studies show many more Americans have gaps in health insurance. A study from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that in 2003, one out of four people under the age of 65 were uninsured at some time during the year (nearly 63 million people going without health insurance at some time in 2003).
Meanwhile, health care costs spiral. A March study from AARP found that in the past year, the price of brand-name prescriptions drugs rose at twice the rate of inflation (6 percent), a consistent pattern in recent years.
“What makes the situation even worse is the fact many state and local governments are now abandoning those who need health coverage the most – children, the poor and the chronically ill,” Vaughan added.

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Contact: Susan Herold, Bill Vaughan (202) 462-6262