Democrats and Media Inflate 46 Million Uninsured (Including Foreigners) to 'Almost 50 Million'

By Penny Starr | June 29, 2009 | 4:29 PM EDT

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) (AP Photo)

( – Democrats in Congress and media reports have been claiming that "almost" 50 million Americans lack health insurance. But the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau say there are in fact 45.65 million uninsured people in this country and that 9.7 million of those are not U.S. citizens. 

Thus, the number of Americans who for one reason or another lack health insurance, is actually 35.9 million--or "almost" 36 million--not the "almost" 50 million being repeatedly cited.
According to “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States,” a Census Bureau report published in August 2008, there were 45.65 million people in the United States who did not have health insurance in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available--and 9.7 million of those uninsured persons were not U.S. citizens.

The report on health insurance coverage also says that both the percentage and number of people without health insurance decreased in 2007.  The percentage without health insurance was 15.3 percent in 2007, down from 15.8 percent in 2006, and the number of uninsured was 45.65 million, down from 46.99 million.
It also showed that the number of people with health insurance increased to 253.4 million in 2007 (up from 249.8 million in 2006).  The number of people covered by private health insurance (202.0 million) in 2007 was not statistically different from 2006, while the number of people covered by government health insurance increased to 83.0 million, up from 80.3 million in 2006.
A search of the Nexis news database shows that both elected officials who support the national health-care plan now under consideration in Congress and members of the news media have inflated the number of uninsured Americans by rounding it up to "almost 50 million," "roughly 50 million" and similar constructions.

On June 21, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) cited the “50 million” number when George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” asked him about Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) plan, which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would only cover one-third, or 16 million, uninsured people and cost at least $1 trillion.
“Well, George, we’re not done with this at all,” Dodd said. “If this were easy, it would have been done decades ago. Sixty years, the efforts have been made to have a national health care program in this country.”
“There’s almost 50 million uninsured,” Dodd said. “And those who are insured, paying prices they can’t afford, and going to escalate every day.”

On the same day, David Gregory, hosting NBC’s “Meet the Press,” interviewed former Sens. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and Sam Nunn (R-Ga.) about the Kennedy plan.
Said Gregory: “Okay, but then the sticker shock in Washington this week, when you got some of the price tag of at least a preliminary Senate plan. This is The Post Friday: ‘In a high-level meeting at the White House Thursday, the president conveyed his concern over early pronouncements by the Congressional Budget Office that a bill drafted by the Senate Health Committee would cost just--cover just 16 million additional people--we’ve got roughly 50 million uninsured--at a cost of $1 trillion.”

News reports also routinely use terms such as "nearly 50 million" and "roughly 50 million" to describe the 45.65 million uninsured (including foreign nationals) calculated by the Census Bureau.

On June 25, Associated Press ran a piece about Obama’s June 24 “town hall” meeting on health care broadcast by ABC from the White House.
“Obama also fielded a pointed personal question during the ABC News town hall at the White House on Wednesday,” the AP reported. “The prime-time program was the latest in a string of events designed to build public support for his plan to slow the rise in health care costs and expand coverage to the nearly 50 million uninsured.”
50 million is 9.6 percent more than the 45.65 million who are actually uninsured.

A June 25 report in the McClatchy Newspapers used the "roughly 50 million" figure.
“On Capitol Hill, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that revamping the health care system to contain costs and cover roughly 50 million uninsured Americans is our most important domestic priority,” McClatchy reported.

NBC "Meet the Press" anchor David Gregory

Other highlights of the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau report on health insurance include the following:
The percentage of people covered by private health insurance was 67.5 percent, down from 67.9 percent in 2006.  The percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance decreased to 59.3 in 2007 from 59.7 percent in 2006.  The number of people covered by employment-based health insurance, 177.4 million, was not statistically different from 2006.
The percentage of people covered by government health insurance programs increased to 27.8 percent in 2007, from 27.0 percent in 2006.  The percentage and number of people covered by Medicaid increased, respectively, to 13.2 percent and 39.6 million in 2007, up from 12.9 percent and 38.3 million in 2006.
In 2007, the percentage and number of children under 18 years old without health insurance were 11.0 percent and 8.1 million, lower than they were in 200 -- 11.7 percent and 8.7 million.  Although the uninsured rate for children in poverty decreased to 17.6 percent in 2007, from 19.3 percent in 2006, children in poverty were more likely to be uninsured than all children. (The number of uninsured children in poverty in 2007 was not statistically different from the number in 2006.) 
The uninsured rate and number of uninsured for non-Hispanic Whites decreased in 2007 to 10.4 percent and 20.5 million (from 10.8 percent and 21.2 million in 2006).  The uninsured rate for Blacks decreased to 19.5 percent in 2007 from 20.5 percent in 2006.  The number of uninsured Blacks in 2007 was not statistically different from 2006, at 7.4 million.    
The percentage and the number of uninsured Hispanics were 32.1 percent and 14.8 million in 2007, lower than 34.1 percent and 15.3 million in 2006. 
The propensity to inflate the number of lacking health uninsurance has a long history.
On May 4, 1995. Sen. Kennedy said in a congressional hearing: “Between 1992 and 1993, one million more individuals, most of them children, lost their insurance coverage. … The total number of uninsured is now 41 million Americans. Current projections estimate that there will be 50 million uninsured by the year 2000.”

As of 2007, of course, and the Census Bureau's official tally of uninsured stood at 45.65.