Uninsured Numbers Are Vastly Inflated

Posted on January 22, 2010

The recent letter headlined “Real health care reform is almost here,” 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 study by June O’Neill, who was director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995-1999, 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.

Kristen Lopez Eastlick is senior economic analyst for the Employment Policies Institute.