NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 22, 2005

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, says Devon M. Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

How Big Is the Problem? About 271 million people, accounting for about 93 percent of the population, either have health insurance or have access to it. Specifically:

  • More than 84 percent (245.3 million) of the 291 million U.S. residents are privately insured or are enrolled in a government health program, such as Medicare, Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP).
  • An additional 10 million to 14 million adults and children qualify for government programs but have not enrolled.
  • Another 16 million live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and could likely afford health insurance.

By these estimates, about 9 percent theoretically have access but have chosen to forgo insurance. The remaining portion (about 7 percent of the population) earn less than $50,000 annually.

More uninsured workers could afford private health insurance if Congress adopts President Bush's proposed refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 per individual ($3,000 per family). This credit would reduce out-of-pocket insurance costs if it were advanced as insurance premium payments came due. Additionally, many of today's uninsured who don't consider health care a "good buy" may change their minds now that health savings accounts (HSAs) are available. Unused HSA funds can be rolled over for use in future years. HSAs will make coverage more affordable for healthy and young workers, who will find insurance more attractive if they know their money isn't wasted if they don't need care in any particular year, says Herrick.

Source: Devon M. Herrick, "Crisis of the Uninsured: 2005 Update," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 528, September 23, 2005.

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