Many Uninsured Could Afford It

Posted on January 15, 2010

The Jan. 10 article “Legislation may help reduce need for charity care” cites a figure of 46 million uninsured Americans. This oft-quoted statistic is actually a gross overestimation of the problem, as recent research suggests that the number of Americans who cannot afford health insurance is much lower.

A new study by June O’Neill, who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995 to 1999, shows that nearly half of those uninsured Americans likely could 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 health care 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.

Kristen Lopez Eastlick
Senior economic analyst
Employment Policies Institute
Washington, D.C.