Census Figures Strengthen Calls for Reform

Writers from around the country see the new census data as more reason to pass a bill, any bill

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The U.S. Census Bureau released its report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage for the year 2008 yesterday, revealing that both the national poverty rate and the number of people without health insurance climbed from 2007 levels. Although most reactions could be considered close to 'unsurprised cyncism,' commentators and reporters were quick to interpret what the new numbers meant for different states and regions.

  • Nationwide Ezra Klein was intrigued by the rising numbers of uninsured families in the middle-income bracket. Noting that this trend was actually contingent the government's ability to provide for low-income families, he concludes that employer-based health insurance is really whats at stake in the fight over reform: "There's been a lot of attention paid to the promise that people in the employer market can keep what they have, at least so far as the government is concerned. But employers and the economy have made no similar promise."
  • East Tom Breen at Forbes looked to West Virginia, observing, like Klein, that increasing numbers of those with jobs have to rely on free clinics to recieve necessary treatment. But its whats happening to the state's children that he and others find most startling: "The census estimates are sobering not only because of the overall increase in people without insurance, but because the number of children without health insurance also grew...That's despite a concerted effort to expand the state Children's Health Insurance Program to cover more children, an effort that state officials and advocates alike had been touting as a success."
  • Midwest At the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sarah Jane Tribble quotes a health policy expert who believes that the figures make the case for a new health care system. The "widely agreed upon reforms could benefit people in Ohio more than other states, such as Massachusetts," because the Buckeye state has a longer history of health insurance de-regulation and inflated premiums.
  • South Besides expressing some relief at the increased insurance coverage for children, Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer unabashedly policitized the findings, conflating town hall GOP rage with a drop in earnings: "People in the South took an especially bad beating, with median incomes there falling nearly 5 percent. No wonder those Southern Republicans are so pissed off."
  • West Adding to the misery of a state that has seen better days, Scott Graves of the California Budget Project highlighted the rise child poverty and continually dwindling number of Californians with job-based coverage. The proposed solution: More dependency on Washington. "All of this points to the need for more federal assistance, including more aid to prevent further state budget cuts, an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, and the passage of comprehensive health reform."
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