NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Are the Uninsured?

October 15, 2001

There are some popular myths about the estimated 38.7 million Americans who lack health insurance, according to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report.

For instance, studies show that the public perceives that most uninsured people are young and healthy and lack coverage by choice. Also, many believe that immigration or unemployment contributes to the growth in the ranks of the uninsured.

  • An estimated 3 million people between the ages of 18 and 44 are young and healthy and lack coverage by choice.
  • But 11 million more go without insurance because their employers don't offer coverage or offer coverage that is too expensive to purchase on an individual basis, according to the report.
  • Furthermore, approximately 80 percent of uninsured people are employed or live in a house with someone who has a full-time job.
  • And recent immigrants comprise only a fraction of the uninsured population.

Although the ranks of the uninsured fell as recently as 2000, most analysts expect the number will grow as the economy slows and fewer employers can afford to subsidize coverage for their workers.

Source: "Americans Uninformed About the Uninsured," Reuters Health, October 11, 2001; "Coverage Matters: Insurance and Health Care," September 2001, Institute of Medicine.

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