Sr. Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association, knows more about, and has done more to alleviate, the causes of poverty than almost anyone I know, especially how poverty affects, and is affected by, health care costs.
Yesterday, she issued the following statement on the shocking new numbers from the Census Bureau about the nation's poverty rate.
Here is the text of her statement:
Today we learned from the U.S. Census Bureau that 49.9 million Americans were uninsured in 2010, a number that continues to be intolerably high but which would likely reflect even greater hardship without help offered by the Affordable Care Act.
As the economy challenges struggling, middle-class families and those who have been trying to find stable employment with meaningful health coverage, 46.2 million people were in poverty last year, a marked increase from 43.6 million in 2009, according to the Census Bureau’s annual report on poverty, income and health insurance coverage.
The average unemployment rate in 2010 exceeded the 2009 rate in 32 states while average health insurance premium costs grew faster than inflation in 34 states, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
These figures demonstrate as clearly as ever the need for a strong, sustainable safety net. Policymakers concerned for human dignity and the common good should keep our nation’s vulnerable persons in mind as they deliberate about how best to reduce debt and develop a sensible budget framework. Such steps should be taken without harming vulnerable people or imperiling the ability of health care providers to deliver the best possible care to all who need it.
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act that became effective last year have helped millions get the coverage they need. At least 500,000 young adults (ages 18-24), for example, obtained health insurance last year, a two percentage point increase that is the result of an ACA provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plan. Meanwhile, approximately 3.2 million seniors have received rebate checks from Medicare after falling into the ‘doughnut hole’ coverage gap and 4 million small businesses became eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of employee health insurance premiums.
Many more provisions of the Affordable Care Act will roll out in coming months and years. CHA encourages lawmakers to support these common-sense reforms that expand coverage and access while improving families’ health and financial situations.