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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Few Poor Americans Are Without Health Insurance

The Bureau of Census’s Current Population Report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011 (September 2012) shows 48.6 million American men, women and children without health insurance. The Census Bureau, in its technical notes, admits this is an over count. Some eight million on Medicaid report themselves without insurance. This adjustment lowers the number of uninsured to 40.6 million.

We can calculate the number of “non-poor” without health insurance from the above Census Bureau report using the percentages of uninsured people in families at different levels of household income. The official poverty threshold income is between $11,484 for a single person and $22,891 for a family of four, I use $22,500 figure as the poverty threshold income.

The Census Bureau finds that 24.4 percent of uninsured persons live in households  earning less than $25,000, 21.5% in households earning $25,000-$50,000, 15.4% in households earning $50-75,000, and 7.8% in households earning more than $75,000.

We can use Internal Revenue Statistics to multiply the number of households earning $22,500-$25,000, $25,000-$50,000, $50,000-$75,000, and $75,000 or more by the percent of uninsured households in each category. This procedure yields the number of uninsured households earning $22,500-$25,000 (2.5 million), $25,000-$50,000 (7.2 million), $50,000-$75,000 (2.9 million), and $75,000 and above (2.3 million). We approximate the number of uninsured people in households with incomes $25,000 and higher by multiplying by the average number of household members by income level.

The final tally is 36.1 million people in households earning $22,500 or above that are uninsured. (We suspect that most of these people are young. One quarter between 18 and 34 do not have health insurance).

We get the number of uninsured poor by subtracting the 36.1 million uninsured non-poor from the total uninsured of 40.6 million to get 4.5 million uninsured poor.

The Census Bureau reports that 9.8 million non-citizens are uninsured.  If we, as does President Obama (in a television interview) exclude them from subsidized government programs, they should be dropped from the insured poor ranks. Most non-citizens are Hispanic who have a poverty rate of 25%. If we use the Hispanic figures, we must drop another 2 million from the uninsured poor, for a total of 2.5 million uninsured U.S. citizens.

Given the vagaries and approximations of these calculations, the 2.2 million figure (seven tenths of one percent of the U.S. population) is probably not significantly different from zero. Only five percent of the 46.2 million Americans in poverty lack health insurance, not because it is not available to them, but they do not know about it or do not care to enroll.


  1. What?! (Or did you run out of gas?)

  2. A downward trend in the number of people without health insurance: " In 2011, the percentage of
    people without health insurance
    decreased to 15.7 percent from
    16.3 percent in 2010. The number
    of uninsured people decreased
    to 48.6 million, down from 50.0
    million in 2010..."

    p.s., the word million is missing in the first sentence.