In 2009 for the first time ever, the number of Americans without health insurance topped 50 million – 50.7 million to be exact, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. In percentage terms, the uninsured rate went from 15.4 percent in 2008 to 16.7 percent in 2009.
It gets worse: the Census folks pointed out that 2009 was the first year that the absolute number of people with health insurance decreased—from 255.1 million in 2008 to 253.6 million in 2009—since they started keeping track in 1987.
The numbers would have been even worse except for the nation's various government-run insurance programs. Enrollment in private insurance plans plummeted by 6.4 million between 2008 and 2009, but 5.7 million people joined public plans, mostly the Medicaid program for low-income families. Another public program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, helped keep the proportion of uninsured kids down to 10 percent.
—Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor
Do you have a health care story to tell? Tell Nancy.