Health Insurance :: Census numbers are shameful reflection of national priorities, says Catholic Health Association

The news today that an additional 2.2 million people in the U.S. lost health insurance coverage in 2006 is a shameful reflection of national priorities. Each year the release of new figures by the U.S. Census Bureau highlights the scope and severity of this problem, and yet the situation changes very little.

The time to move from analysis to action passed long ago, and the American public is increasingly demanding the health care system it deserves.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, since 2000 the number of people without health insurance has increased from 38.4 million to 47 million. Meanwhile, 36.5 million people lived in poverty in 2006, nearly 10 percent of the nation’s families.

“In a supposedly strong economy, millions of people are still struggling for life’s basic necessities, including health care,” said Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States. “Behind each of those millions is a human face and a personal story, often a tragic story of health care neglect that could have been prevented with basic health insurance coverage.”

Today’s report from the Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, indicates that among the 47 million uninsured are at least 8.7 million children, up from 8 million children in 2005.

Against this backdrop, the Bush administration recently limited states’ flexibility to expand coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). President Bush also has threatened to veto bipartisan congressional legislation to reauthorize the program. Failure to reauthorize SCHIP would threaten, if not eliminate, the availability of health care for more than 6 million children.

“Several recent opinion surveys confirm that 90 percent of the American public supports SCHIP and wants to see it properly funded into the future. This stands in stark contrast to the policies and pronouncements coming from the White House. We can do better, and the public is clearly insisting that we do,” Sr. Carol said.

Minorities also continue to be disproportionately uninsured. According to the Census Bureau report, more than one-third of Hispanics and one-fifth of African Americans were uninsured in 2006.

Sr. Carol concluded: “Whether we are talking about children, minorities, or middle-class parents working hard to provide for their families, millions of people are being left out of our health care system. This is unforgivable and embarrassing for our nation, but I am convinced that together we have the intelligence and will power to solve the problem permanently.”

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