To defend my colleague Carrie Lukas from comments made on a previous post, numbers about who the uninsured are have been vastly overstated. It is true that taken as a snapshot in time, there are 47 million Americans at any given time who do not currently possess health insurance. But this deserves a much closer examination.

June O’Neill, former CBO director of the Congressional Budget Office, recently released a study detailing the composition of this group. Her conclusions are very important, and should be a significant part of the debate on how to “cover” this group. Some of her findings:

  • One quarter of those counted as uninsured – 12 million- are eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP but haven’t enrolled.
  • 43 percent of the uninsured have incomes higher than 250 percent of the poverty level ($55,125 for a family of four). And slightly more than a third have incomes in excess of $66,000.
  • Most of the uninsured are young and in good health: the CBO reports roughly 60 percent are under 35, and 86 percent report that they are in good or excellent health.
  • Most people without health insurance are uninsured for a relatively short period of time – only about 30 percent of the uninsured remain so for more than a year, approximately 16 percent for two years, and less than 2.5 percent for three years or longer. About half are uninsured for six months or less.

Perhaps a public plan (or co-op, or whatever the term du jour is) isn’t the best way to help, is it?

(H/T: Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute.)