There is probably much celebrating going on among the crowd that doesn’t see our current health care situation as a crisis. The number of uninsured Americans dropped in 2007, to 45.7 million people, from a high of 47 million in 2006. I’m sure there are people who will use this data to say that we don’t really have a health care problem in America, and that our “free market” system is alive and well.
But what will the numbers say a year from now, when 2008 data is counted? This hasn’t been the best year for a lot of Americans. The economy is less than robust, and when it comes down to a choice between food and health insurance, my bet is that food wins. So while the data from last year is encouraging, keep in mind that it doesn’t include the last eight months.
And to me, one of the most interesting parts of the census data is that the number of people covered by private individual and group health insurance decreased in 2007, while the number of people enrolled in public, government-run health insurance programs increased. The net result was more people with health insurance. I wonder if the data showing a decrease in the number of uninsured last year will be used to show that we don’t need more government interference in our health care system, as the problem seems to be righting itself.
Even if we do see the bright side of these numbers – that fewer people were without health insurance last year than the year before – we still have a long way to go. People without health insurance or access to affordable health care face a significant risk, both to their health and to their financial wellbeing. As the pageantry of the DNC has unfolded this week here in Colorado, we’ve heard health care mentioned again and again. I’m optimistic that working on solutions will remain as much of a priority after the election as talking about it has been over the last several months.