NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 27, 2005

The number of U.S. residents without health insurance may be overstated by as much as nine million people, according to two new analyses of census data, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The studies were commissioned by Michael O'Grady, a top health economist in the Bush administration, after four government surveys found the number of uninsured in 2003 ranged from 19 million in the Survey of Income and Program Participation to 45 million in the Current Population Survey (CPS). Both surveys are conducted by the Census Bureau, but the CPS is "relied on most widely," the Times reports.

  • One analysis by Actuarial Research Corporation estimated that nine million, or 20 percent, of the 45 million uninsured had health insurance coverage in 2003.
  • The second analysis by the Urban Institute, based on data from 2001, estimates that four million of the 45 million uninsured had coverage.
  • Both studies conclude that the CPS overestimated the number of uninsured because it undercounted the number of residents enrolled in Medicaid programs.
  • Both studies also found that the uninsured population is growing as more residents lose private coverage.

According to the Times, a reduced number of uninsured residents "could have broad consequences for the health care debate" and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which receive allocations of federal funds based on the survey data.

Recalibrating the estimate of uninsured residents could reduce or increase states' shares of the $5 billion pool of federal funds used for state SCHIP programs but would not affect the overall amount of federal funding.

Source: Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, " Number of Uninsured May Be Overstated, Studies Suggest," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2005; Catherine G. McLaughlin et al., "Health Policy and the Uninsured: Causes and Consequences of Lack of Health Insurance," Urban Institute, January 1, 2004;


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