Uninsured Figures Could be Overstated, Studies Show

April 26, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The number of Americans living without health insurance may be overstated by up to 20%, according to new research from the government.

The common figure given for uninsured Americans is usually 45 million; however, new research suggests that it may be 9 million fewer than this, which would make the total 36 million.

The incorrect number may be caused by problems with the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, according to the LA Times. The new report was done by Actuarial Research Corp., a private company. Another estimate by the Urban Institute put the overcount at a smaller 4 million. According to both studies, the Census undercounted the number of people on Medicaid.

Some observers were quick to attack Bush, who commissioned the report. According to the Times, Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton University, a specialist on health care issues, asserted that the administration’s decision to ask for the research showed that it was more worried with counting the uninsured than about helping them.

“I call it the body count,” Reinhardt told the Times. “Instead of addressing the problem, we say we must count the uninsured. It is literally, in my view, like making sure we know how many deck chairs we have on the Titanic.” He does not, however, dispute that the original figure may have been too high.

One effect of the change could possibly be ashift in individual states’ shares of a $5-billion pool of federal funds for providing health insurance to children in low-income families, according to the Times.