By: Danielle Garrett, Health Policy AnalystPosted on September 14, 2011

On Tuesday, the US Census Bureau released new data on health coverage in the US and the numbers were not encouraging. The data showed an increase in the number of women lacking health insurance, bringing the number of uninsured women to the highest level in over a decade. Not surprisingly in this economy, fewer women had employer based insurance coverage and public programs like Medicaid were not able to make up for the coverage lost in the private sector. NWLC’s analysis shows that for women ages 18 to 64:

  • The rate of women without health insurance rose to 19.7 percent in 2010 from 19.2 percent in 2009, the highest rate in more than a decade.
  • A total of 19 million women were uninsured in 2010, an increase of more than 0.5 million women from the previous year.
  • Nearly one in five women did not have health insurance in 2010.
  • The percentage of women with employer-sponsored health insurance declined to 60.6 percent in 2010 from 61.7 percent in 2009, a decrease of over 0.6 million women.
  • The percentage of women covered by Medicaid declined slightly to 11.5 percent in 2010 from 11.7 percent in 2009.

One bright spot however, was the increase in young adults with health insurance. Historically, young adults have been the age group most likely to lack health insurance and many young people lost coverage when they graduated from school or aged out of their parents plan. The census data released on Tuesday however shows that the percentage of young adults with insurance increased from 70.7% in 2009 to 72.8% in 2010.This change is largely thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which enables young adults to stay on their parents insurance until age 26.

The increasing number of uninsured women in the US is troubling, but the positive insurance numbers for young adults show that the Affordable Care Act is already helping, and will go a long ways in solving this problem if it is fully implemented. By 2019, 32 million people, including 17 million women will have gained health coverage thanks to the new law. Many of these people will gain coverage through a Medicaid expansion. As the census numbers show, millions of women rely on Medicaid for their health coverage and this number will grow as the new health care law is implemented. So let these statistics serve as a reminder that we need to be focused on implementing the Affordable Care Act and strengthening our public health insurance programs, not cutting them as many members of congress and state legislators have proposed.