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Government data highlight insurance crisis

Newly released results of major survey from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 43.6m people lacked health insurance last year at the time the research was conducted. Although the figure represents nearly 15 percent of the US population, reflecting a serious and growing problem, it is nonetheless lower than previous estimates from the government, which had placed the number of uninsured Americans at 46m.

Newly released results of major survey from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 43.6m people lacked health insurance last year at the time the research was conducted. Although the figure represents nearly 15 percent of the US population, reflecting a serious and growing problem, it is nonetheless lower than previous estimates from the government, which had placed the number of uninsured Americans at 46m.

The new survey found that a full 54.5m Americans - nearly 19 percent of the population -- went without health insurance for at least part of the year, and 30.7m -- more than 10 percent of Americans -- had been without insurance for more than a year.

Children, an especially vulnerable population, were more likely to be insured than adults, largely due to public programs that provide for minors whose families can't afford coverage. Still, over nine percent of Americans under the age of 18 lacked insurance during 2006.

The survey was conducted and released by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. The data are early results, which have not yet been subject to final editing and weighting, the government noted. Estimates of the number of uninsured are usually very slightly lower than the final, edited figures, it added.

The research draws additional attention to the problem of America's uninsured at a time when the issue has been thrust into the headlines by the early campaign promises of many 2008 presidential hopefuls and the release of Michael Moore's high-profile documentary 'Sicko,' which takes the health insurance crisis as its subject matter and urges that health insurance companies be abolished, pharmaceutical companies be more strictly regulated, and free, universal healthcare be provided to all Americans by the government.

Many of the plans laid out by politicians seeking the next presidency emphasize measures that would allow Americans access to group rates on health insurance even if they are unemployed or employed by a business that does not offer health insurance. Barack Obama's proposal, for example, would allow all Americans to buy into a new health insurance plan modeled on what is currently offered to federal employees.

The new survey results seem to emphasize the need for some solution to the problem of insurance for the unemployed. Among adults who were unemployed at the time of the survey, a whopping 60 percent lacked health insurance for at least a portion of the year, while just over 33 percent had been uninsured for more than a year.

The data also show that health insurance status is linked to ethnicity. About a third of Hispanic Americans were uninsured at the time of the research, and 25 percent had been uninsured for more than a year.

27th June 2007

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