Posted on August 28, 2007

Middle-Class Americans Join Ranks of Uninsured in 2006 as Private Coverage Shrinks


August 28, 2007

Steffie Woolhandler, M.D. (617) 312-2766
Quentin Young, MD (312) 782-6006
Don McCanne, M.D. (949) 493-3714

Number of Uninsured Swells 2.2 Million to 47 Million

15,000 Doctors: “Single Payer National Health Insurance is the Only Solution”

CHICAGO — The U.S. Census Bureau released data today showing that the number of uninsured Americans jumped by 2.2 million in 2006 to 47.0 million people, with nearly all the increase (2.03 million) concentrated among middle-class Americans earning over $50,000 per year, according to an analysis by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Strikingly, 1.4 million of the newly uninsured were in families making over $75,000 per year. An additional 600,000 were in families earning $50,000 to $75,000 per year. (The median household income in 2006 was $48,200).

“Middle income Americans are now experiencing the human suffering that comes with being uninsured. It makes any illness a potential economic and social catastrophe,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Physicians for a National Health Program also noted the following:

1- The 2.18 million rise in the number of uninsured is the biggest jump reported by the Census Bureau since 1992.

2 - There are now more uninsured in the U.S. — 47.0 million — than at any time since passage of Medicare/Medicaid in the mid-1960’s.

3 - 93% of the increase is among middle and high income families:

Of the 2.18 million increase:

  • 1.398 million (64% of the increase) was in >$75k family income
  • An additional 633,000 (29% of the increase) was among $50-$75k group

    Among full time workers, the number of uninsured increased by 1.230 million (56.4% of the increase).

4 - In Massachusetts, often cited as a model for health reform, the number of uninsured increased from 583,000 in 2005 (9.2 percent) to 657,000 in 2006 (10.4 percent of the population).

5 - The divergence between poverty and uninsurance is relatively new and striking. Until recently, as poverty went down uninsurance fell. That has changed.

6 - The number of uninsured children has fallen only 17 percent since SCHIP was enacted in 1997 from 10.74 million (adjusted to be comparable to current figures) to 8.66 million. The number of uninsured children rose by 611,000 between 2005 and 2006.

The doctors’ group said that the only solution to the rising number of uninsured and underinsured is a single-payer national health insurance program, publicly financed but delivered by private doctors and hospitals. Such a program could save more than $400 billion annually in administrative waste, enough to provide high-quality coverage to all and halt the erosion of the current private system.

“We can no longer afford the waste and inefficiency, the high overhead and outrageous executive salaries of the private insurance industry” said Dr. Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow for PNHP. “Only reforms that end our reliance on defective private coverage and assure guaranteed coverage for all will work.”

“The experience of other industrialized nations teaches us that high-quality, comprehensive care can be provided to all our citizens,” said Dr. Quentin Young, National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. “A single-payer national health insurance system has emerged as only solution to the nation’s health system debacle.”


Physicians for a National Health Program is an organization of 15,000 American physicians advocating for non-profit national health insurance. PNHP has chapters and spokespersons across the country. For local or national contacts, call (312) 782-6006.