The number of people in the U.S. without health insurance increased slightly in 2010, while the share of Americans with private insurance continued to fall and more relied on government coverage, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau Tuesday.

In 2010, 256.2 million people has health insurance and 49.9 million did not; both numbers marked an increase over 2009, when 255.3 million had insurance and 48.9 million did not. But the change was not statistically significant, nor were changes in the percentage of Americans covered by Medicaid (15.9 percent) or the number of children under 18 without health insurance (9.8 percent).

The percentage of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance continued a decade-long decline, falling to 55.3 percent, while the percentage of people with government insurance rose to 31 percent, continuing an upward trend.

The data came from information collected this year in the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Anyone who had health insurance at any time during the year was considered to be insured; only those who had no health care coverage for the entire year were considered uninsured.

Overall, 16.3 percent of the population had no insurance in 2010, but the rates varied considerably by race. Among whites, 11.7 percent were uninsured, and the rate for blacks was nearly double that–20. 8 percent–and for Hispanics, nearly triple–30.7 percent. Among Asians, 18.1 percent were uninsured.

Health care coverage also varied by income. Among people in households earning less than $25,000 a year, more than one in four was uninsured. For those earning $75,000 or more, only 8 percent were uninsured.

Young people aged 18 to 24 bucked the trend, with a larger percentage having health insurance in 2010 than in 2009. A provision of the federal health reform law that took effect last year allows young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.

Advocates for social service programs said the most recent health insurance data underscores the importance of government health insurance programs, including the state’s HUSKY health plan for mostly low-income children and their parents.

“As fewer workers can obtain health insurance for themselves and their families through their jobs, we need to strengthen, rather than cut back on programs that work, like HUSKY,” said Sharon Langer, a senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children. “As families face this difficult economy, Congress should avoid funding reductions in Medicaid that would cut off help to struggling or unemployed families just when they need it the most.”

Because the state-level survey sizes are small, Connecticut Voices for Children recommends using two-year estimates to evaluate state trends. The think tank found that the percentage of Connecticut residents under 65 without health insurance rose from 10.3 percent in 2007-2008 to 12.5 percent in 2009-2010. The number of uninsured children also rose, but it was not statistically significant.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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