Number of Uninsured Americans Rose in First Six Months of 2009

Cheryl Clark , December 17, 2009

Nearly 60 million people in the U.S., or about one in five, had no health coverage for at least part of an 18-month period between January 2008 and June 2009, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's an increase of about 4 million people from previous estimates released in August 2007.

Additionally, 45.4 million people of all ages, or 15.1% of the population, were uninsured at the time of an interview, which covered a period between January and June of this year. And 31.9 million, or nearly one in 11 people, had been uninsured for more than a year.

Other highlights of the report, collected from the National Health Interview Survey, revealed that during the first six months of 2009, 8.2% of children under 18 were uninsured. During the same period, 60.6% of unemployed adults between the ages of 18 and 64 had been uninsured for at least a portion of the last year.

"During the first six months of 2009, 22.7% of persons under age 65 years with private health insurance were enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), including 6.4% who were enrolled in a consumer-directed health plan. Almost 50% of persons with a private plan obtained by means other than through an employer were in a HDHP."

The number of people under age 65 with private health insurance who were enrolled in a HDHP also increased between 2007 and 2009, regardless of whether the enrollee was covered by his or her employer or purchased coverage directly. For example, for those purchasing health coverage directly, the numbers of people with a HDHP went from 39.2% in 2007 to 48.7% for 2009, as measured in the first six months.

The survey was based on interviews with 32,694 people.

The CDC released the report as elected officials debate various ways to enable more people to have health insurance coverage.

The report disclosed additional findings:

  • From January to June 2009, 12.3% of poor children and 11.6% of near poor children, defined as living in families earning below the federal poverty threshold, did not have health coverage at the time of the interview. But the percentage of near poor children who lacked coverage at the time of the interview decreased from 15.6% in 2008 to 11.6% in the first six months of 2009.
  • The percentage of near poor adults aged 18-64 years of age who lacked coverage at the time of the interview increased from 37.7% in 2008 to 43.2% in the first six months of 2009.
  • Lack of health insurance coverage was greatest in the southern and western regions of the U.S.
  • Hispanic persons were considerably more likely than non-Hispanic white persons, non-Hispanic black persons, and non-Hispanic Asian persons to be uninsured at the time of the interview, to have been uninsured for at least part of the past 12 months, and to have been uninsured for more than a year.

Cheryl Clark is a senior editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at


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