How many uninsured in the US?

Exactly a month ago, Michael Ramirez presented this data in an excellent editorial cartoon, but the news media didn’t pay attention.  AEI covered the same ground in its August 2008 edition of The American, and the national media still hasn’t caught up.  Unfortunately, they will probably not pay much attention to Jazz Shaw, Cato Institute, or Hot Air and Ed Morrissey either when we point out that the number of uninsured Americans is dramatically lower than the 47 million figure bandied about in the debate.

Do you think they’d listen to the Census Bureau?  Jazz writes:

Next, we need to go back to the Census Bureau report and turn to page 31 where we are informed that their total number includes the category of those who are listed as “non-citizens” (which are carefully broken out from naturalized citizens vs. native born citizens.) The non-citizen rate of uninsured individuals clocked in at 43.8%, or roughly 9.4 million non-Americans. Since these people are not here legally and not paying into the system, that portion of the crisis is better addressed in a debate on immigration issues, but taxpaying Americans don’t need to be on the hook for that segment of the total.

While the number continues to drop, it’s also worth noting that we’re not talking exclusively about the abject poor who can’t afford insurance. As this Business and Media report informs us, that same Census Bureau summary includes the following:

But according to the same Census report, there are 8.3 million uninsured people who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and 8.74 million who make more than $75,000 a year. That’s roughly 17 million people who ought to be able to “afford” health insurance because they make substantially more than the median household income of $46,326.

Once you do some fairly basic math, you come up with the same figure that the Kaiser Family Foundation arrived at.

The liberal Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number of uninsured Americans who don’t qualify for government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 8.2 million and 13.9 million.

Assuming we bought individual health insurance plans for each of these people at $300 per month, a cost that having a 14-million-member pool should allow.  We could insure them for $50.4 billion a year.  That would not be a very good solution for a number of reasons, but it costs  a lot less than the $2 trillion over ten years that the CBO estimates ObamaCare will cost, plus it avoids the entire issue of overhauling a system most of us like.  In fact, if the idea is to save money through ObamaCare, then this should be the baseline: any plan Congress creates should cost less than the $50.4 billion a year it would cost to simply buy insurance for everyone who can’t afford it.

Besides, as the Census Bureau admits, its own numbers of uninsured may be inflated (page 67):

National surveys and health insurance coverage

Health insurance coverage is likely to be underreported on the Current Population Survey (CPS). While underreporting affects most, if not all, surveys, underreporting of health insurance coverage in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) appears to be a larger problem than in other national surveys that ask about insurance. Some reasons for the disparity may include the fact that income, not health insurance, is the main focus of the ASEC questionnaire. In addition, the ASEC collects health insurance information by asking in February through April about the previous year’s coverage… Compared with other national surveys, the CPS estimate of the number of people without health insurance more closely approximates the number of people who are uninsured at a specific point in time during the year than the number of people uninsured for the entire year.

It’s not 47 million.  It’s not 36 million.  The number of Americans uninsured out of necessity and not economic choice is at most 14 million.  Understanding that will bring a much more balanced approach to health-care reform on a scale commensurate with the problem, rather than a hysterical rush to throw out a system that works for hundreds of millions Americans.