Uninsured Americans Number Exaggerated

Posted on September 29, 2009

Joe Stubbs’s Sept. 25 opinion piece, “We can reform the health care system,” cites a figure of 46 million uninsured Americans. This oft-quoted statistic is actually a gross overestimation of the problem, as recent research suggests the number of Americans who cannot currently afford health insurance is much lower.

A new study by Dr. June O’Neill, who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995-99, shows that nearly half of those uninsured Americans could likely afford to purchase health coverage. The average “voluntarily uninsured” household makes $65,000 per year.

We should not rush into the creation of a new, expensive healthcare system without a better understanding of the uninsured population. As long as we continue basing our arguments on inaccurate numbers, it’s hard to see how we can make effective policy decisions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kristen Lopez Eastlick is senior economic analyst of the Employment Policies Institute.