Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released numbers looking at health insurance, poverty and income statistics from 2008. The verdict: Not good.
In Minnesota, 8.5 percent of people were uninsured in 2007-08, or about one in 12 Minnesotans. Although the percentage of uninsured did not change from the previous year both nationally and in Minnesota, that isn’t as good as it may sound.
First, these statistics are based on the Current Population Survey, which asks people whether they had health care coverage at any point in 2008. So, in order to count as uninsured in this survey, somebody would have had to be without coverage for the entire year. These results do not reflect those who may have lost insurance at some point in 2008 as the recession deepened. In other words, expect the numbers to look worse next year.
Second, the numbers show that employer-provided health care coverage is falling. The percentage of Minnesotans with employer-provided coverage was 71 percent in 2007-08, down from 77 percent in 2000-01. The overall number of insured in Minnesota has remained pretty stable because the public sector has picked up the slack. But the state’s health and human services budget took quite a beating this year – a total of nearly $1.6 billion in reductions between budget cuts, line-item vetoes, unallotments and loss of federal funds. That safety net is disappearing fast.
There was also more bad news (of course). The nation’s official poverty rate increased from 12.5 to 13.2 percent between 2007 and 2008. That’s the first statistically significant increase since 2004 and the highest poverty rate since 1997. National real median household income also declined (after three years of increases).
The initial data shows that Minnesota’s median income is also falling and our poverty rate is on the rise. However, better state-level statistics will be available on September 22…so we’ll wait until then to delve deeper into Minnesota’s poverty and income situation.
In the meantime, this report should add fuel to the fire – we need health care reform and we need more investments in people at the state and federal level. The trends behind these numbers mean that they aren’t just the result of the recession; they reveal more fundamental troubles that need urgent action.