The Sept. 6 article, “Amid noisy health care debate, free clinics struggle to keep up,” (McClatchy Newspapers IdahoStatesman.com) 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 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 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.