IS THERE A CRISIS OF THE UNINSURED?
September 3, 2004
Despite claims that the United States is experiencing a health insurance crisis, the proportion of people without insurance coverage has changed little in recent years, says health economist Devon Herrick.
A better way to look health coverage, he says, may be to count the number of people with health insurance for the past few years:
- The proportion of people without health insurance was about the same in 2003 (15.6 percent) as is was a decade earlier (15.3 percent in 1993).
- However, the number of people without health coverage increased by about 5.8 million people to 45 million, largely due to population growth.
- Typically, those who lack insurance are uninsured for only a short period of time -- 75 percent of uninsured spells are over in one year or less.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Census Bureau figures actually give a snapshot of current insurance status, rather than those who are uninsured for an entire year. The CBO estimated that in 2002, 21 million to 31 million people were uninsured for a year -- far short of the 44 million often claimed.
Herrick suggests that 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).
- The credit would reduce the out-of-pocket cost of insurance if it were advanced as insurance premium payments came due.
- Additionally, many of the uninsured who don't consider health care a "good buy" may change their mind now that health savings accounts (HSAs) are available.
Source: Devon Herrick, Ph.D., "Is There a Crisis of the Uninsured?" Brief Analysis No. 484, National Center for Policy Analysis, September 3, 2004.
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