Fact Sheet: America's Uninsured

The media claim that there are 40 million to 50 million uninsured Americans and use that statistic to bolster calls for universal government-run insurance coverage. The inaccuracy has been repeated by print and broadcast journalists for years, but the true extent of the uninsured “crisis” is much smaller than those reports let on.

Myth: There are between 40 million and 50 million uninsured Americans. President Obama referred to “46 million uninsured Americans” in May 2009.


Fact: Anyone who reports that there are more than 46 million uninsured is exaggerating since the Census Bureau puts the number of uninsured at 45,657,000 people.

Fact: Nearly 10 million (9.7) of the 45.7 million uninsured are “not a citizen.” That makes every media claim of uninsured Americans higher than 35.9 million is wrong.

Myth: The 40 million to 50 million uninsured cannot afford health insurance.

Fact: More than 17 million of the uninsured make at least $50,000 per year (the median household income of $50,233) – 8.4 million make $50,000 to $74,999 per year and 9.1 million make $75,000 or higher. Two economists working at the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that 25 to 75 percent of those who do not purchase health insurance coverage “could afford to do so.”


Myth: The 40 million to 50 million uninsured do not get health care.

Fact: The National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that uninsured people get about $1,500 of free health care per year, or $6,000 per family of four.

Fact: An Urban Institute study found that 25 percent of the uninsured already qualify for government health insurance programs.


Myth: People will remain uninsured without government assistance.

Fact: The Congressional Budget Office says that 45 percent of the uninsured will be insured within four months. CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin also said that the frequent claim of 40+ million Americans lacking insurance is an “incomplete and potentially misleading picture of the uninsured population.”

Fact: Liberal non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation put the number of uninsured Americans who do not qualify for government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 8.2 million and 13.9 million. (The 8.2 million figure includes only those uninsured for two years or more.)

Fact: CBO analysis found that 36 million people would remain uninsured even if the Senate’s $1.6 trillion health care plan is passed.