NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 28, 2007

Despite claims that there is a health insurance crisis in the United States, the proportion of Americans without health coverage has changed little in the past decade.  The increase in the number of uninsured is largely due to immigration and population growth -- and to individual choice, says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

How Big Is the Problem?  In 2006, according to Census Bureau data:

  • More than 84 percent (250.4 million) of U.S. residents were privately insured or enrolled in a government health program, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Programs (S-CHIP).
  • Up to 14 million uninsured adults and children qualified for government programs in 2004 but had not enrolled, according to the BlueCross BlueShield Association.
  • Nearly 18 million of the uninsured live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and could likely afford health insurance.

In theory, therefore, about 32 million people, or 68 percent of the uninsured, could easily obtain coverage but have chosen to forgo insurance.  That means that about 94 percent of United States residents either have health coverage or access to it.  The remaining 6 percent live in house-holds that earn less than $50,000 annually.  This group does not qualify for Medicaid and (arguably) earns too little to easily afford expensive family plans costing more than $12,000 per year.  However, they could afford the limited benefit plans that are gaining in popularity, says Herrick.

Source: Devon Herrick, "Crisis of the Uninsured: 2007," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 595, September 27, 2007. 

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