Many Uninsured Folks Can Afford Coverage

Posted on September 09, 2009

Last Wednesday’s Dispatch article, “Health-care supporters rally,” cited a figure of 47 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 to 1999, shows that nearly half of those uninsured Americans likely could afford to purchase health coverage. They 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 to create 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