Excuse me, but I have a few questions…

July 15, 2009

If you’re like me, you have been over-saturated with news stories about health care reform. Many of these stories contradict each other, some contain wild exaggerations both pro and con, and some are merely spin doctoring in its purest form. How are we supposed to take all this in? Well, we can start by breaking it down into small chunks and by asking questions.

Who are the uninsured, anyway?

First, let’s look at the center of the whole debate: the uninsured in the United States. Who are they, exactly? The Census Bureau[i] can tell us: The number of people who were uninsured at least part of the year in 2007 was 45.7 million[ii]. That’s a big number. This is the crisis we keep hearing about, the growing avalanche of uninsured.

This 45.7 million represents about 15.3% of the total U.S. population. So what was the percentage back in 1992? Surely it wasn’t as high?

It was 15%. Same as now. In fact, since 1987, the percentage of uninsured in the last 20 years has fluctuated between 14% and 16%[iii].

The total number has grown, true, because our population has grown. But the percentage has remained more or less stable. In fact, the number of uninsured actually dropped from 2006 to 2007, from 15.8% to 15.3%.
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