Opinion

Commentary: Census shows need for health insurance mandate has grown

Just as the federal health care reforms are set to kick in this week, fresh evidence arrives from the Census Bureau that underscores the genuine need for fundamental change in the way Americans receive medical attention: The number of uninsured in America reached nearly 51 million people in 2009, compared to 46.3 million in 2008. That was an increase from 15.4 percent of the population in 2008 to 16.7 percent in 2009.

Many of these newly vulnerable Americans don't fit the conventional stereotype of people who don't have, and can't get, insurance. They're middle class, and either recently unemployed or simply unable to access the health insurance market for one reason or another. According to the Census Bureau, of the 4.4 million newly uninsured, roughly half have incomes of $50,000 or more.

This is part of the population that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- "Obamacare" -- that Congress passed earlier this year was meant to protect. Unfortunately, the law's mandate that all Americans have health coverage does not go into effect until 2014.

That was a compromise designed to win support for the law. With joblessness lingering and the economy recovering far too slowly, it's a good bet that when the mandate kicks in, the need will be just as great, if not greater, than it is today.

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