Uninsured Rate

Published January 1, 2003

43.6 million people without a health insurance policy is not the crisis it’s being made out to be by advocates for national health care.

The most under-reported and most meaningful statistic is that 43 percent, or 9 million, of those counted as uninsured are not even U.S. citizens. And while they use the health care system, they pay nothing to support it.

In addition, there are more than 7 million immigrants in the United States illegally, and since the illegal are careful not to leave a paper trail, it should not be surprising they do not buy health insurance.

States with the highest rates of immigration are also those with the highest rates of uninsured–notably California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

Millions of respondents to health insurance surveys do not count government-provided health care as insurance, which further skews the Census uninsured figures. Medicaid beneficiaries frequently say they do not have health insurance.

Some politicians think clearly and say Medicaid beneficiaries should be counted as insured, because they are. Others, using the uninsured rate as agitation for increased bureaucratic-run health care, seize the opportunity to distort the debate by claiming Medicaid beneficiaries are uninsured.

Yes, 43.6 million uninsured sounds like a lot. But, like all things in life, it must be understood in context.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.