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Saturday, December 2nd 2006

Nearly Half Of Uninsured By Choice

Well, ignorance or choice.

The Health Affairs Blog is touting this as a major move for those who advocate for universal coverage. I think these numbers are stunning for the opposite reason; for the fact that so many are uninsured by choice (or because they don’t know their options).

Of the 44.6 million uninsured Americans, 56 percent are ineligible for public programs and have insufficient incomes to afford coverage on their own, the researchers report. Another 25 percent of the uninsured are eligible for public programs, and the remaining 20 percent have incomes high enough to afford coverage.

The Urban Institute is an ideological think tank (I would say the same thing about something I linked to from the Cato Institute), and the study is their’s. So take this for what it is worth. Here’s the Johns Hopkins public health researcher who was the PI:

“Sometimes you hear arguments that all but a small minority of the uninsured could either purchase coverage or are already eligible for assistance,” said lead author Lisa Dubay, now a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But our study shows that the affordability problem is far more serious than that.”

But basically this study says that the uninsured in this country really only number 26 million. That is literally what it says. The other 20 million can afford private or should sign up for public coverage. And this is a “conservative” number coming from a very liberal think tank. What if a conservative think tank redefined what it means to be able to “afford” insurance. I would love to be able to look at the UI’s methodology in defining that term, but alas I lack a subscription to Health Affairs.

So, Dr. or Ms. Dubay may be right, the wackos way out on the right have been proven wrong. 80% (or whatever wacky number you want to use) of the uninsured are not uninsured by choice. But more than 40% basically are? That really isn’t a figure you want to be touting trying to rile up support for a single payer system.

In fact, citing this study, this blog will use the 26 million figure for any future discussion on the number of uninsured.