Discrediting official uninsured estimates only minimizes the real health care problem, says health economist

Census Bureau to release health insurance numbers Sept. 10

The health reform debate to date has been characterized by a lot of confusion and misinformation. “The conclusion that most of the uninsured either are voluntarily uninsured or do not need assistance is erroneous,” says Timothy McBride, Ph.D., leading health economist and associate dean of public health at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

“One of the big arguments that opponents of health care reform rely on is that the number of uninsured is vastly overstated. In fact, the Census Bureau’s estimate of the uninsured is accurate and should be trusted in this debate,” he says.


The Census Bureau will announce the official health insurance estimates on Thursday, Sept. 10. According to McBride, because of the economic downturn, the number of uninsured may top 50 million.

McBride, author of the policy brief, “Trying to Minimize a Crisis: The Myth That the Uninsured Estimate is Overstated,” has been active in testifying before Congress and consulting with important policy constituencies on Medicare, insurance and health policy issues. He is a member of the Rural Policy Research Institute Health Panel that provides expert advice on rural health issues to the U.S. Congress and other policymakers.

“Attempts to minimize the problem of the uninsured by deleting subgroups such as higher income people who can afford insurance, children and adults eligible but not enrolled in government assistance and noncitizens ignore the evidence that these individuals are uninsured and need assistance,” McBride says.

“Rather than conclude these groups should not be included in the uninsured estimates, we need to recognize that the diversity of the uninsured suggests that a range of policies — targeted towards these groups — are needed to solve the problem of the uninsured.”

For more information about the subgroups of the uninsured, read “Trying to Minimize a Crisis: The Myth That the Uninsured Estimate is Overstated.”