South and Southwest lead the nation in the number of uninsured

In the first full year of therecession, the nation's poverty rate climbed to 13.2 percent, upfrom 12.5 percent in 2007, according to the annual report releasedThursday by the Census Bureau.

Coming in the middle of Congress'health care reform battle, the data presents a stark picture of thestate of poverty and health care in the United States. The number ofAmericans without health insurance rose to 46.3 million last year aspeople began losing jobs and coverage in the current recession.According to the report, 39.8 million residents lived below thepoverty line in 2008, which is the highest number of people livingbelow the poverty line since 1960.

Divided by region, the uninsured weremostly likely to be found in the South (18.2 percent) and West (17.4 percent). Texas lead the nation with the highest percentage ofresidents who are uninsured, at just over over 25 percent. The otherstates rounding off the top five states with the highest average rateof uninsured people include: New Mexico (23 percent), Florida (20.5percent), Louisiana (20 percent), and Arizona (19.6 percent).

Analysts say that the increase in theuninsured is due to the steady erosion of employer-provided healthinsurance, which declined from 177.4 million to 176.3 million. Incontrast, the number covered by government health insurance such asMedicaid, Medicare and the children's insurance program rose from 83.0million to 87.4 million.