Don’t overestimate problem of uninsured

Posted on September 04, 2009

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

The Sept. 1 letter, “Save Social Security first,” cites a figure of 47 million uninsured Americans. This oft-quoted statistic actually is 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 June O’Neill, who served as director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995-1999, shows that nearly half of those uninsured Americans likely could afford to buy health coverage. These individuals have incomes at least 2.5 times the poverty level, with the average “voluntarily uninsured” household making $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
Eastlike is a senior economic analyst with the Employment Policies Institute.