AN IGNOBLE MILESTONE FOR THE UNINSURED…. In case anyone needed a reminder on why health care reform was so absolutely necessary, the Huffington Post‘s Amy Lee reports this morning on the latest Kaiser Foundation study on America’s uninsured.

As the Great Recession has sown unemployment and downgraded work even for those people who have held on to their jobs, the number of Americans lacking healthcare has swelled beyond 50 million, according to a sobering new report from the Kaiser Foundation.

Among the report’s most troubling findings: The number of Americans without any health care coverage grew by more than four million in 2009. That left almost one-fifth of non-elderly people uninsured. Among those between 19 and 29 years old, nearly one-third lacked coverage.

The study underscores the degree to which the recession has accelerated the loss of basic elements once viewed as inextricable pieces of a middle class life. The number of Americans lacking medical coverage now exceeds the population of Spain. […]

As those lacking health insurance grow in number, so do those missing out on necessary medical attention. About one-in-four uninsured adults have forgone care in the past year because of costs, compared to only 4 percent of those who have private coverage, according to the report.

It’s against this backdrop that congressional Republicans, eyeing an ambitious agenda in 2011, insist that what we really need to do is gut the health care system, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and stop even trying to bring coverage to those families who need it, want it, but can’t afford it.

The message to those 50 million, in a nutshell, is: Don’t worry; you can always go to the emergency room.

If these tens of millions of uninsured Americans registered and voted against those who are adding to their hardship, Republicans wouldn’t win another election at the federal level for quite a long while.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.