46 Million Uninsured Is An Overestimate

Posted on September 01, 2009

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

To elaborate on the August 25th letter “More details about those uninsured Americans,” the oft-quoted statistic of 46 million uninsured 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 1995-1999, shows that nearly half of those uninsured Americans could likely afford to purchase 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.