The tragic shooting in Arizona may have put off, for a week, the sharp partisan debate in Congress over health care reform repeal. But it still looks like the Republican controlled House and White House are headed for a showdown over the issue.

President Obama released a letter over the weekend promising to veto any legislation that lands on his desk attacking the health care overhaul. The GOP may counter by attempting to cut off funds for implementation.

Against this backdrop, the Centers for Disease Control released an ominous report showing that the number of uninsured was the highest ever in 2010.

The CDC says 30 million adults were uninsured for the 12-month period prior to the survey, which took place from January to March 2010. And a record 50 million, or one in four adults, were without insurance for at least a portion of the previous 12 months.

“During each of the past few years, the number of adults this age who went without health insurance for at least part of the past 12 months increased by an average of 1.1 million,” the CDC said in its November issue of the newsletter Vital Signs.

There was some regional variation. There were more uninsured in the South, and in Nevada, Oregon and Idaho, where the uninsured rate ranged between 21.5 percent and 29.1 percent. Lowest rates were in the upper Midwest and the Northeast, where they pegged at between 6.2 percent and 13.8 percent.

Note that people in all income brackets have been affected, not just adults living in poverty. In 2009, about 32 percent of middle-income families ($43,000 to $65,000 household income) were uninsured for at least a portion of the preceding year.

This is the problem that the health care reform law was intended to address. And a few adults, such as college students, are already being added to the rolls of the insured as a result of the law. But most of the impact won’t be until 2014 when state Medicaid programs are supposed to be expanded. That’s where the real controversy lies.

But if the law is repealed or voided by the courts, look for the growth in the rate of the uninsured to accelerate even further.

I don’t expect any organic improvement, not with the jobs reports we’ve seen lately. Statistics also show that the jobs being created aren’t the type that come with health insurance benefits. These are the part-time retail and service positions that are replacing middle-class sustaining jobs lost during the recession.

A lot of financial bloggers are warning that the U.S. is headed toward becoming a Third World country with the devaluation of our currency and the dramatic gap between rich and poor. Letting the health care gap continue to grow is yet one more troubling sign.

Graphic source: Vital Signs, Centers for Disease Control