Letter: Rural health care data misleadingThe article “As others see it: Include rural health care in reform effort” (Wednesday’s Daily Globe) cites a figure of 46 million uninsured Americans.
By: Kristen Lopez Eastlick, Employment Policies Institute, Washington, Worthington Daily Globe
The article “As others see it: Include rural health care in reform effort” (Wednesday’s Daily Globe) cites a figure of 46 million uninsured Americans. This oft-quoted statistic is actually a gross overestimation of the problem, as recent research suggests the number of Americans who cannot currently afford health insurance is much lower.
A new study for the non-profit Employment Policies Institute by Dr. June O’Neill, who served as Director of the Congressional Budget Office from 1995-1999, shows that nearly half of those uninsured Americans could likely afford to purchase health coverage. These individuals have incomes at least 2.5 times the poverty level — $27,000 or more a year for a single adult with no dependents. The average “voluntarily uninsured” household makes $65,000 per year.
The data also show that most uninsured Americans access effective healthcare services through the existing national safety net. The uninsured population currently receives about half as much healthcare as the privately insured.
We should not rush into the creation of a new, expensive healthcare system without a better understanding of the uninsured population. As long as we continue basing our arguments on inaccurate numbers, it’s hard to see how we can make effective policy decisions.