U.S. Census Bureau data showing an increase in the number of uninsured Americans in 2005 triggered a flurry of responses from healthcare associations and government leaders. FamiliesUSA, a consumer organization, said the number of uninsured Americans in 2005 -- 46.6 million people, or 15.9% of the U.S. population -- exceeded the cumulative population of 24 states plus the District of Columbia. "We need the federal government to take this on as a national priority and spend resources in this area," said Kathleen Stoll, the organization's director of health policy. By comparison, the percentage of the population without health insurance was 15.6% in 2004, or about 45.3 million people, the Census Bureau said. In a news release, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, noted that the uninsured rate hit a high of 16.3% during the Clinton administration and pointed to the Census Bureau's finding that 247.3 million Americans had critical insurance coverage in 2005, 1.4 million more than in 2004.
While the uninsured rate climbed, the percentage of Americans with employer-based health coverage dropped slightly -- to 59.5% in 2005 from 59.8% in 2004 -- continuing a recent trend. Both the absolute number and percentage of uninsured children rose, reaching 11.2% of all U.S. children, or 8.3 million. That was up 0.4 percentage points from 10.8%, or 7.9 million, in 2004. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, said in a news release that the data confirm "President Bush and the Republican Congress are making a bad healthcare situation worse," and that the Republicans' consumer-driven health agenda ultimately will leave more families and children with inadequate coverage.