Three Out of Four of Those without Health Coverage Were Uninsured for At Least Six Months; One Out of Three Non-Elderly Americans Were Uninsured At Some Point in that Two-Year Period

Washington, D.C. – Approximately 86.7 million Americans – one out of three people (33.1 percent) under 65 years of age – were uninsured at some point during 2007-2008, according to a report released today by the health consumer organization Families USA.

The report, based on data from the Census Bureau and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, shows that most of those who were uninsured lacked coverage for lengthy periods of time: nearly three-fourths (74.5 percent) were uninsured for at least six months, and almost two-thirds (60.2 percent) were uninsured for nine months or more.

“If you weren't convinced of the need for health care reform, the data in this report will do the job,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).  “We are not simply talking about numbers; tens of millions of Americans are faced with the fear and uncertainty of a lack of health care coverage.”

The data in the Families USA report supplement other Census Bureau data that are commonly used, such as the 45.7 million people deemed to be uninsured for the entire 2007 calendar year.  The report provides important insights about the people who did not have health coverage for all or part of the latest two-year period (2007-2008).

“The huge number of people without health coverage is worse than an epidemic,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “At this point, almost everyone in the country has had a family member, neighbor, or friend who was uninsured – and that’s why meaningful health care reform can no longer be kept on the back burner.”

Key findings in the report include the following data for non-elderly people:

Four out of five (79.2 percent) of the uninsured were in working families: 69.7 percent of the families included a worker who was employed full-time and 9.5 percent a worker who was employed part-time.

More than half (52 percent) of individuals and families with incomes between the poverty line and twice the poverty line – between $21,200 and $42,400 of annual income for a family of four in 2008 – went without health insurance at some point in 2007-2008. 

More than one-third (33.7 percent) of individuals and families with incomes between twice the poverty line and three times the poverty line – between $42,400 and $63,600 of annual income for a family of four in 2008 – went without health insurance at some point in 2007-2008. 

White, non-Hispanics constituted half (49.8 percent) of the people who were uninsured. However, the likelihood of being uninsured was higher for minorities: one-quarter (25.8 percent) of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured at some point in 2007-2008 compared to 40.3 percent of African Americans and 55.1 percent of Hispanics.   

“Inaction on health care reform in 2009 cannot be an option for the tens of millions of people who lack or lose health coverage each year,” said Pollack. “The cost of doing nothing is much too high: More and more people would fail to get the health care they need or would risk being bankrupted by unaffordable health care costs.” 

The report also catalogues the potential dire consequences of people being uninsured. According to the report, the uninsured are less likely to have a usual source of care outside of an emergency room; they often go without screenings and preventive care; they delay and forgo needed medical care; they are sicker and die earlier than those who have insurance; and, when they do receive care, they pay more for that care.

“While over 15 percent of Americans are uninsured, we now have another harsh fact in the crisis in health care in America: one in every 3 Americans under age 65 were uninsured at some point over the past two years,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Our mandate is clear:  to provide affordable health insurance coverage and to control the growth in health care costs in order to fund more health care services. This is a year of decision in health care, and I am committed to succeeding in passing comprehensive health care for all Americans.”

“For those who believe we can afford to wait to fix our broken health care system, this is a reality check,” said U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). “Every American family deserves health care they can count on, and that means comprehensive coverage within a delivery system that provides high quality, efficient, accessible, coordinated, and affordable care.”

“This report by Families USA demonstrates how we have reached a point of crisis that requires real action,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “Fortunately, we have already begun to act. As President Obama stated in his national address to Congress last week, we have done more to reform our health care system in the past 30 days, than in the past decade. However, our work has just begun. Tomorrow, the president will host a summit on health reform and next week my subcommittee will begin hearings to better inform us on how best to go about producing real and meaningful health care reform. We have real momentum with us right now.  We must not squander this opportunity.”  

“If every American had a one-in-three chance of developing a life-threatening condition in the next two years, modern medicine would be working nonstop to find a cure,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) “Being uninsured is just such a life-threatening condition. Any effort to cure this public health epidemic will require a commitment to cover the uninsured.”

The Families USA report was based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation as well as the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey used by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. The data were compiled with the assistance of The Lewin Group, a distinguished health policy and data consulting firm.

A copy of the report is available at:


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