The recent U.S. Census Bureau report contained truly sobering data on the number of Americans without health insurance. The report found that, from 2005 to 2006, the number of uninsured Americans grew from 44.8 million to 47 million, a 5% increase. The news was even worse for kids: 8.7 million American children were uninsured in 2006, a staggering 8% increase from 2005. In just one year, the number of uninsured kids in the U.S. grew by over 600,000.

These alarming numbers confirm what healthcare providers and workers see every day-America's healthcare system is failing more and more Americans.

Children and adults without insurance lack access to primary and preventive care, and miss vaccinations and checkups. Far too many end up in emergency rooms for expensive treatment of conditions that could have been far more effectively treated, at far less cost, had they received care sooner.

Today's Census Bureau report affirms the dire need for reliable and affordable access to health care coverage for all Americans within a reformed health care system that aggressively promotes improved quality and efficiency.

There are many opportunities for win-win solutions that promote affordable access to the highest quality healthcare. One such solution, the renewal and expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and an increased tobacco tax, has been supported by the Partnership for Quality Care through its Cover Kids Now campaign. Millions more children will have health insurance, and a decrease in smoking means that providers will see fewer smoking-related illnesses requiring treatment.

In light of the new census data, it is clear the need for healthcare reform is greater than ever.  Renewing SCHIP and ensuring it has the funding to cover millions more children is a vital first step to ensuring affordable access to the highest quality healthcare for all Americans.