Number of Californians without health insurance soars

More than 45,000 Sacramento County residents joined the ranks of the medically uninsured in the past two years, according to a new report that further illustrates the staggering depth of the recession: a surge of 2 million Californians without health insurance.

One in four Californians, or 8.2 million people, now lack coverage, according to UCLA researchers.

The study, released Tuesday, quickly became a talking point in the national debate over health care legislation, which could culminate later this week in a dramatic up-or-down vote on Capitol Hill.

California's newly uninsured include 400,000 children. In all, 1.5 million children in California have no health insurance, the study says.

"Given the economic conditions, we knew something was going to change, because 2009 was a terrible year," said Shana Alex Lavarreda, director of health insurance studies at UCLA and the lead author of the report.

"We didn't think it was going to be this huge. The numbers startled us. This is the biggest jump we've seen in decades."

The UCLA study is the latest to document the country's growing uninsured population.

On Monday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimated that as many as 59.7 million Americans could be uninsured in five years — and perhaps as many as 67.6 million by 2020 if policymakers don't take action to contain health care costs.

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