Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on Thursday said the "egregious" practices of insurers are largely to blame for the rising number of uninsured Americans, as newly reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Montana Democrat also suggested the new healthcare reform law will reverse the trend.
"The increase in uninsured Americans last year is clear evidence of how critical it was to take action to protect patients," Baucus said in a statement, "and that’s exactly what the Affordable Care Act will do."
Earlier in the day, the Census Bureau reported that nearly 51 million Americans, or 16.7 percent of the population, lacked health insurance last year, up from 46.3 million (15.4 percent) in 2008.
Baucus, a chief author of the law, said the pre-reform trend is largely the result of "egregious insurance company abuses" — practices the new law will rein in, he adds.
The law, for instance, will prohibit insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or capping coverage at arbitrary spending amounts, he noted.
"And, because of the Affordable Care Act," Baucus adds, "insurance companies can no longer drop coverage when folks get sick, just because of unintentional errors on applications years earlier."
The Census suggested another cause of the spike in the uninsured rate: The number of people covered under employer-based plans plummeted by 6.3 million between 2008 and 2009 — largely a testimony to an unemployment rate that topped 10 percent last year.