NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Crisis of the Uninsured: 2010 and Beyond

September 17, 2010

One of the primary goals of the new federal health reform law -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) -- is to ensure that all Americans have health insurance.  Yet it is generally overlooked that the proportion of Americans without health coverage has been relatively stable over time, says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. 

  • According to the Census Bureau, in 2009 the number of individuals lacking health coverage rose from 46.3 million to 50.7 million. 
  • The proportion of uninsured Americans rose from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent mostly due to job losses.
  • In fact, the proportion of people without health insurance in 2009 is up just over one percentage point from a decade earlier.
  • The increase in the number of uninsured over the past decade is largely due to the recession, population growth, immigration and individual choice, says Herrick.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that about 32 million individuals will gain health coverage due to the PPACA -- about half of whom will be covered by Medicaid.

  • However, about 23 million people will remain uninsured in 2019 -- nearly half the 50.7 million today. 
  • This figure may be wishful thinking -- the penalties for forgoing health coverage are less than the cost of coverage ($695 per individual or 2.5 percent of income). 

More patients will be insured under the PPACA but that does not solve the problem of where they will be able to go to get care, says Herrick.

Source: Devon Herrick, "Crisis of the Uninsured: 2010 and Beyond," National Center for Policy Analysis, September 17, 2010.

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