NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

People Are Uninsured For Differing Reasons

October 27, 2000

The government says the number of uninsured Americans has declined recently, from 44.3 million a year ago to 42.6 million. But since the numbers constantly change as some people buy insurance and others lose or give up their insurance, a more relevant number is the number who are uninsured for a year or longer, says economist John C. Goodman, president and founder of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Those without insurance for a year or more are less than half of that 42.6 million, says Goodman.

There are a variety of reasons people lack health insurance, which makes reducing their numbers through government programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) especially difficult.

  • The cost of insurance premiums is a factor among lower income workers, according to Goodman, but, "Over the last two years, most of the growth of the uninsured population has come from those making more than $50,000 a year. And more than half of that group makes more than $80,000 a year."
  • Among low-income individuals, there is little reason to sign up for free government care, since compared to the uninsured, "The ones who sign up for Medicaid do not get better care. They don't get more care, and they don't get quicker care."
  • Moreover, millions of the uninsured are young and healthy, and don't think they -- or their children -- need coverage, since if they need care they can always go to the emergency room and sign up for Medicaid there.

Being uninsured may be a barrier to accessing health care. "There's conflicting evidence," notes Goodman. "It seems, for instance, that people who are uninsured may be less likely to go to the emergency room. But if they do go, they get the same care as those who are insured."

Source: Charles Oliver, "Millions Without Health Plans: Who's To Blame?" Investor's Business Daily, October 26, 2000.


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