Short Takes On News & Events

What’s Your Guess On Newest Uninsured Numbers? Win A Prize (Well, Recognition)

By Phil Galewitz

September 10th, 2012, 12:40 AM

After the monthly jobs report on Friday, the next big federal report with  implications for the presidential race comes Wednesday morning when the Census Bureau releases its annual study on the number of people without health insurance.

Photo by f2g2 via flickr

Last year, the Census reported that in 2010 the number of uninsured rose by 1 million to 49.9 million while the rate remained flat at 16.3 percent.  In 2002,  about 40 million people were uninsured.

Most experts say to expect a slight rise in the number of uninsured in 2011.

Although the economy was still rocky last year, unemployment fell from 9.4 percent to 8.5 percent. Typically, as unemployment rises, so does the uninsured rate because people lose their jobs and the health coverage that came with it.  On the other hand, state Medicaid rolls grew in 2011, albeit at a slower rate than in previous years. Typically, Medicaid enrollment and the uninsured rate grow together as they reflect the state of the economy.

Another factor that could lower the numbers is the provision in the federal health law allowing young people to remain on their parents’ health plans until age 26, which according to the Obama administration has helped more than 3 million young adults gain coverage.

“I expect (the number of uninsured) will go up a bit, but not a lot,” said John Holahan, director of the health policy research center at the Urban Institute. He noted employer coverage is likely to fall for low-wage workers as the economy remains sluggish.

Vernon Smith, managing principal at consulting firm Health Management Associates, agreed. “I’d expect a rise, continuing the trend related to continued erosion of employer-sponsored health insurance, as fewer businesses offer health coverage,” he said. In case the number drops, he said credit will be due to the health law provision allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance.

The bet from Ken Thorpe, chairman of health policy and management at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health: “I think the share of uninsured population remains about 16.3 percent — but total number tops 50 million — slight increase.”

If  the number of uninsured does rise, conservatives will say President Barack Obama’s health law has failed. If the number goes down, Obama supporters will credit the new law.

However, the data won’t be that simply explained. For one thing, the main coverage expansion provisions in the law don’t start until 2014. And to make things more complicated, the Census Bureau this year will make some changes in its methodology that will affect the number for 2011 and also likely result in a revised number for  2010 .

So what’s your guess on the number of uninsured?

19 Responses to “What’s Your Guess On Newest Uninsured Numbers? Win A Prize (Well, Recognition)”

  1. ollie says:

    I’m a Republican. Why in the world should I be concerned whatsoever about whether others have health insurance or not. Let them go out and work for a living and if health insurance is important to them, they can buy it for themselves. Republicans all believe that people are free to choose. If they choose to be uninsured, that is their business. Not mine!

  2. ollie says:


    Who cares?

    I don’t!

    I’m a Republican, remember?

  3. Tina Nguyen says:

    50.3 millions

  4. My guess would be that it drops. I would say that it would have dropped by over 3 million because of all younger, healthier, Americans between the age of 19 to 26. Also, unemployment is dropping. Slowly, but dropping.
    In Florida, we have a mandate that covers dependents until age 30 on parents plan. I would say about 46.6.
    Using logic, of course.

  5. Jim Bowman says:

    51.2 million

  6. Bill Salganik says:

    50.5 million

  7. Helen says:

    50,000,850. I think there will be a rise in the numbers of uninsured but as the article notes, not for the obvious reason(s). Everybody knows that the costs of health care has been on the rise for years (emphasized). Prior to the Affordable Care Act enactment, which is still not fully implemented, many employers have dropped health care coverage all together or have shifted the costs of the premiums to employees. This is happening at the same time as wages have stagnated. As to the decrease in unemployment, I don’t think it is for the reasons we hope (people looking are able to find a job and no artifical barriers are in place that prevent hiring). The jobs that have been created, I suspect are service jobs (jobs based purely on consumer spending which is still weak) and typically don’t have health insurance associated with employment. I would hope that even republicans have a heart but based on what I have seen, republicans make the Grinch look like a saint!

  8. Spring Texan says:


  9. Lynn in SC says:

    My logic for uninsured remaining stable is that states are working to expand CHIP and more and more boomers are aging into Medicare. Also I believe Census revised their small area survey methodology and that may have depressed responses. But that’s just a guess from a health care economist that watches the number of SC uninsured keep growing.

  10. Robert says:

    Unlike Ollie(the Republican??yeah, right) I belong to no party and do care that people have health insurance and should be given every possible chance to have have access to it. At the same time, I do not believe you should take benfits away from others to achieve that opportunity!!

    48.9 million is my guess.

  11. Guadalupe Leon says:


  12. Julie says:


    The economy still hasn’t fully recovered, but Medicaid and CHIP enrollment are up and more young people are covered under their parents’ plans.

  13. I am currently unemployed and uninsured thus unable to see a doctor for a very sever backache. I am trying all sorts of over the counter medication. It can be a dislocated disc or cancer or being on positive side, nothing.
    It does not bring comfort if someone tells me that the number of uninsured has dropped because I know that there are still many more suffering like me.
    Anyway my guess is 47000000.

  14. ollie says:

    Guess what? Robert cares! Would someone please push the button that says “Canned Applause”. Care? Huh? Do you care that most of the 50 million uninsured referred to in this article are routinely getting charity healthcare at America’s hospital emergency rooms while an estimated $1100 is built into your policy premium and into my policy premium each year as a hidden subsidy just to pay for it? Care about that, Robert? If you care so much that we shouldn’t be taking away from others to achieve healthcare opportunity for the uninsured, why don’t we start with restricting hospital emergency rooms for all but paying customers? How about we put an end to mandated hospital emergency room care for freeloaders? How about that, Robert? No wonder more and more hospitals are closing their emergency rooms and ending the insanity of charity healthcare for America’s bums!

  15. Gary says:


  16. Michael says:

    50,650,000 uninsured.

  17. Bruce says:

    50.2 million

  18. Ellen says: