AMERICA'S UNINSURED

June 24, 2009

The media claim that there are 40 million to 50 million uninsured Americans and use that statistic to bolster calls for universal government-run insurance coverage.  The inaccuracy has been repeated by print and broadcast journalists for years, but the true extent of the uninsured "crisis" is much smaller than those reports let on, says Julia A. Seymour of the Business and Media Institute.

Consider some commonly believed myths:

  • There are between 40 million and 50 million uninsured Americans (President Obama referred to "46 million uninsured Americans" in May 2009).
  • The 40 million to 50 million uninsured cannot afford health insurance.
  • The 40 million to 50 million uninsured do not get health care.
  • People will remain uninsured without government assistance.

The facts are quite different, says Seymour:

  • The Census Bureau puts the number of uninsured at 45.7 million and nearly 10 million are not citizens; that makes every media claim of uninsured Americans higher than 35.9 million wrong.
  • More than 17 million of the uninsured make at least $50,000 per year, 8.4 million make $50,000 to $74,999 per year and 9.1 million make $75,000 or higher.
  • The National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that uninsured people get about $1,500 of free health care per year, $6,000 per family of four.
  • The Urban Institute found that 25 percent of the uninsured already qualify for government health insurance programs; even the liberal Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number of uninsured Americans who don't qualify for government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 8.2 million and 13.9 million.

Further, the Congressional Budget Office says that 45 percent of the uninsured will be insured within four months, and 36 million people would remain uninsured even if the Senate's $1.6 trillion health care plan is passed.

Source: Julia A. Seymour, "Fact Sheet: America's Uninsured," Business and Media Institute, June 23, 2009.

 

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