Americans’ access to basic needs in decline

Zachary Roth
Senior National Affairs Reporter
The Lookout

Nearly five million fewer Americans have access to the basic necessities of life -- things like food, water, shelter, and healthcare -- than the number that did less than three years ago, according to new polling data.

The U.S. received a score of 82 on Gallup's Basic Access Index for June, down from 84.1 in October 2008.

The single basic need in the index that has decline dthe most of late is access to healthcare. Last month, 82.1 percent of Americas reported having health insurance. In June 2008, that figure was 85.4 percent.

President Obama's healthcare overhaul, intended to increase access to health insurance, was passed in March 2010. But most of its provisions have not yet gone into effect.

The percentage of Americans who say they've always had enough money to buy food over the last year also has dropped -- from 82.4 three years ago, to 81.6 last month.

Americans' rate of access to basic needs could be about to drop even more. That's because many states' unemployment benefits are scheduled to run out at the start of 2012. And government spending cuts look likely to hit Medicaid, aid to states, and other programs that benefit the poor.

The results, according to Gallup, are further evidence for "the sluggishness of the current economic recovery. The recession officially lasted from December 2007 until June 2009. But the index suggests that by some measures, things are worse today.