Physician Disputes Obama’s Claim of 46 Million Uninsured Americans

Penny Starr | June 23, 2009 | 7:06pm EDT
Font Size

Eric Novack, an orthopedic surgeon and patients' rights advocate, tesified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday on the Obama Administration's proposed health care legislation. Novack said the legislation will not reduce health care costs or improve access to health care and will allow the federal government to dictate American's health care options. (Photo by Penny Starr/

( – An Arizona orthopedic surgeon testified in Congress on Tuesday that President Obama's claim that 46 million Americans don’t have health insurance is not accurate because it does not reflect exactly who those people are and why they are “uninsured.”

Dr. Eric Novack testified before the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health about the Obama administration’s proposed health care legislation. Afterward, he told that the Obama administration's claim that there are 46 million uninsured people in America includes people with different health care scenarios and that combining them togehter in one number is misleading.

“If we start breaking down those numbers a bit--and again these will be round numbers--but about 9 to 10 million of those people are in the country illegally,” Novack said.

Another 15 million are what he called “chronically uninsured,” because of pre-existing health problems or other mitigating factors.

Novack, a self-described “patient advocate” who has written about health reform for the Goldwater Institute and supports legislation in Arizona to protect patients’ right to use and pay for the health care plan of their choice, said another 10 million or so “uninsured” Americans have chosen that status.

“We have young people between 18 and 30, probably about another 10 million or so, they’d rather buy applications for their iPhone than buy health insurance,” Novack said.

He said some of the approximately 46 million Americans referred to by Obama and members of the subcommittee include others who may be eligible for existing government health care programs, such as S-Chip and Medicaid, but don’t sign up.

Novack said Congress should consider the numbers he claimed will be more useful when crafting health care legislation.

“The solution that we should be seeking out is not to change the health care of the other 97 percent of Americans,” Novack said. “Let’s seek solutions the best we can to make things better, make health care more accessible, and more affordable for the (other) three percent.”

As reported earlier by, according to the Census Bureau, 9.7 million of the approximately 46 million uninsured people in the United States are foreign nationals who happen to be in the United States. In other words, about 21 percent of the uninsured in this country are citizens of other nations who are living here.

According to the Census Bureau report “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States,”  published in August 2008, there were 45.6 million persons in the United States in 2007 who did not have health insurance. However, the report states that 9.7 million of these uninsured persons were not U.S. citizens.

The Census Bureau does not ask whether someone is legally or illegally present in the United States, so it is unknown how many of the 9.7 million uninsured foreign nationals were legal permanent residents of the United States and how many were illegal aliens.

The report also said the majority of non-citizens residing in the United States did in fact have health insurance. Of the approximately 22.2 million non-citizens residing in the country in 2007, the Census Bureau says 12.5 million had health insurance, with 9.4 million covered by private plans.

Of the 299 million people in the United States in 2007, 253.4 million had health insurance. The vast majority of those—202 million—had private health insurance, according to the Census Bureau.

Novack told that the 46 million used by proponents of Obama’s plan, which would include government-run insurance, is also misleading, because the “uninsured” population is always changing.
“The other half of that is that the (46 million) is not a static number,” Novack said. “People often times are transiently without insurance.
“So the (46 million)--even if we are going to accept that number--(those) who are uninsured on Jan. 1, 2009 compared to Jan 1, 2110, 20 million of those people will be different,” he said. “They change jobs, they may pick up insurance, they may get a better job, they may get married, they may get onto Medicare, or Medicaid. So there’s a whole variety of reasons.
“I urge the members of this committee to consider health care reform legislation that protects individual liberty, preserves privacy, prevents government bureaucrats from having limitless power over our health, is based on genuine evidence that proposed reforms would work,” Novack testified. “In other words, reforms that protect patients first.”
Novack told that the 800-page draft legislation from the Obama administration, which he got a copy of on Friday, falls short of those goals.
“I think the overall approach that this draft legislation takes will do nothing to improve our main goals, which is to contain cost, improve access and improve quality,” he said.
mrc merch