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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Lets Drill Down Into The Number Of Uninsured

We are often reminded there are 45 million uninsured people in this country. Let’s look at what comprises 45 million number. The figure is derived from US Census data; I checked it myself at and learned the following:

  • In 2004, there were 45,820,000 individuals without health insurance and here are some non-mutually exclusive facts regarding the uninsured individuals.

  • 34% (15,934,000 people) or one of three was in a household with income of $50,000 or more.

  • 17% (8,092,000 people) or one of six was in a household with income of $75,000 or more.

  • 25% of the uninsured individuals (11,859,000 people) or one out of four were foreign born.

  • 20% (9,542,000 people) or one of five are not citizens.

  • 19% (8,772,000 people) or almost one out every five was between the ages 18-24.

The census data suggests the uninsured crisis is partly hyperbole. A good number of the uninsured could afford insurance coverage but apparently decided they don’t want to pay their own premiums. That group represents one-third of the total. You may guess if COBRA premiums were made more economical, the size of this group would likely shrink significantly.

The group between 18-24 is primarily comprised of college students and others trying to find their career niche. They tend to fall off their parent’s insurance policy when they reach the age of 19. Once they settle into a regular job, the majority get insurance coverage.

The non-citizens represent 20% of the total. Should an immigrant expect immediate coverage for health insurance from his/her new country? I am curious as to how an immigrant is treated in countries with national health insurance. The United States admits 2-3 million immigrants each year so this data seems to suggest the average immigrant is without insurance for 2-3 years after their date of immigration. That does not seem like a bad trade-off to trade life in this country with their former homeland.

I trust you understand these categories are not mutually exclusive. That means a high-income individual may also be a non-citizen and I am not trying to count those twice. I just used the base US Census data as best as I could.

Lastly, I would argue that anyone who truly wants to fix health insurance in this country is not acting in good faith when they use this 45 Million number. The census data detail supports my argument.

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