Are 46 Million Really Without Health Insurance In America? Yes & No.

by Lesley Politi on June 17, 2009

That is an outrageous number of people to be without Health Insurance. The cost of such basic services is dramatically less expensive when you have some kind of health insurance policy. Just having the Carrier’s Negotiated Rate saves hundreds.

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It is one of the most widely quoted stats in the media today: ‘46 million in America are without health insurance.’   Is it true?

Yes.   The latest numbers have just about 45.7 million people in America lacking health insurance.

But there are some important details missing in this rather startling figure.

An interesting article in American Spectator breaks down the health insurance numbers.   That article, along with some research in CBO, Census bureau and private studies, paints some interesting points in the health insurance debate.

Here are a few:

1.  There is a difference between health care and health insurance.   Everyone has access to health care.   They may not have health insurance, but the law mandates everyone who shows up at emergency rooms must be treated, insurance or not.

2.   46 million in America lack health insurance.   The “in America” reference, as opposed to writing “46 million Americans,” is an important point because of those 46 million without insurance, an estimated 10 million or so are non-U.S. citizens, most living in this country illegally.

3.  Millions can apparently afford health insurance but for whatever reason choose to not buy it.   In 2007, an estimated 17.6 million of the uninsured made more than $50,000 per year, and more than 9 million of those made more than $75,000.   According to researcher and author Sally Pipes, 38 percent of the U.S. uninsured population earn more than $50,000 per year.

3.  Young workers often just don’t think about health insurance.   The Census figures show that 18.3 million of the uninsured were under 34 who may simply not think about the need for insurance.

4.  Government health insurance programs currently exist that aren’t being used.    A 2003 Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association study estimated that about 14 million of the uninsured were eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP and would be signed up automatically if they went to the hospital.

5.  Many children who should be insured aren’t.   This study by Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute shows that 7 out of every 10 kids who lacks insurance could get it if their parents simply enrolled in current government programs.

6.   Millions lose health insurance only temporarily through the year.   The CBO has estimated that millions who fall into the uninsured category are those who have lost or left jobs and they will regain insurance once they return to work.

According to the American Spectator article citing this Blue Cross study, the 46 million figure should actually be closer to about 8 million truly uninsured.  Too many are simply non-US citizens, not paying for insurance because they choose not to or feel too young to need it, or simply are not signing up for programs for which they are eligble.

With the price of health care rising faster than nearly every other form of inflation, it is clear something needs to change.    And even one American without health insurance is one too many.    But health care is also an incredibly important part of our economy, accounting for 1 out of every 10 American jobs.   And we are discussing major changes that could have wide-ranging impact.     How much change is yet to be determined, but as Congress and the White House begin their discussion and debate over what could be legislation that costs more than $1 trillion dollars, it’s important to be aware of the real story of health care coverage.

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When I think of some of the plans President Obama has for Health Reform, I always go back to the problem of providing Health Care for non-U.S. citizens. Obama has never, that I have seen touched on that issue. As said above, 10 million or so are non-U.S. citizens, most living in this country illegally. Who would be paying for their health care?
 
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