How What We Think We Know about the Uninsured Really Adds Up

Chair Maloney and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for inviting me to testify before you today. I am a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. This testimony has been prepared and submitted in advance of today's release of the annual Consumer Population Survey (CPS) on Income, Poverty, and Insurance Coverage, as conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Hence, rather than try to hit an unknown and moving target in advance, I will attempt to help place within a broader context whatever those latest findings might suggest regarding the most recent level and nature of persons lacking insurance in the U.S. I primarily will be drawing upon some recent work of mine at AEI regarding what we do know more broadly about the uninsured, some of the limitations in trying to measure the scope and dimension of the problems of the uninsured, and several often-neglected considerations in assessing the broader issue of how to improve health outcomes at lower overall costs.

Pick a Different Survey and Get a Different Number of Uninsured Americans

One normally begins with trying to determine just how many Americans lack health insurance. The short answer is "too many," but the total numbers depend on whom you ask and how they measure the problem. The CPS provides the most commonly reported figure. It was about 45.7 million people for 2007, as of last year's survey released in August 2008. Although that estimate actually was lower than the 2006 figure of 47 million, we should know by the time of today's hearing how much the number of uninsured has increased since then, due in large part (if not solely) to the devastating effects of a recession that began early last year, deepened throughout 2008, and had yet to end as of the second quarter of this year.

Two other surveys by the federal government report different estimates of the uninsured, because they are handled by other federal agencies, use somewhat different ways to measure the problem, and assess it for different periods in time. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported in June that 43.8 million persons of all ages were uninsured at the time of their interview in 2008. The NHIS provides several additional measures of the uninsured beyond what is increasingly viewed as more of the single "point in time" estimate provided by the CPS. The latest NHIS report also finds that 55.9 million had been uninsured for at least part of the entire year of 2008 prior to the interview, and 31.7 million had been uninsured for more than a year at the time of the interview.

Click here to download this testimony as an Adobe Acrobat PDF.

Thomas P. Miller is a resident fellow at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Thomas P.
Miller

What's new on AEI

In year four of Dodd-Frank, over-regulation is getting old
image Halbig v. Burwell: A stunning rebuke of a lawless and reckless administration
image Beware all the retirement 'crisis' reports
image Cut people or change how they're paid
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.