Posted on September 27, 2002

Number Without Health Insurance Climbs 2.5 million Over Previous Estimate


Census Bureau Press Release Disguises Shrinking Coverage

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The Census Bureau estimate that 41.2 million Americans were uninsured in 2001 actually represents a rise of 2.5 million over their 2000 estimate, not the 1.4 million increase that the Bureau's press release implies, according to health policy experts at Columbia and Harvard Universities. The discrepancy is due to a new upward revision of the 2000 estimate to correct for previous undercounts of Hispanics and low income Americans that was discovered by the 2000 Census.

The Bureau's September 30 press release states that the number of uninsured rose from 39.8 million (14.2%) in 2000 to 41.2 million (14.6%) in 2001. Yet last year's release estimated the number uninsured at 38.7 million (14.0%). The 1.1 million discrepancy in the 2000 estimates is buried in a technical appendix to the Census Bureau's report, and is not even mentioned in the Bureau's press release announcing the 2001 findings.

"The Bush administration is trying to bury bad domestic news. Last year they announced that 38.7 million were uninsured. This year their figure is 2.5 million higher, but by sleight of hand they try to make almost half of the increase disappear." Said Dr. David U. Himmelstein, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard. He continued: "Despite the economic boom of the 1990s and massive expansions of Medicaid and the CHIP program, we've been losing ground on health insurance. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of uninsured rose by 8.5 million, and by 18 million since 1980. And though we won't have the exact figures until next year, everyone knows that things are already much worse than today's report indicates. Health costs are soaring, and additional millions have lost job-based coverage this year. Only national health insurance can save our failing health care system."

Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University noted: "Since 1992, the number of Hispanics without coverage has increased by 4 million, a 47% increase. Latinos, who make up 13% of the U.S. population, accounted for 64% of the increase in the uninsured between 2000 and 2001. While the Bush administration pays lip service to reaching out to Hispanic voters, its policies are denying life-saving medical care to millions of Hispanics."

Note: Last year's Census Bureau press release and estimate on the uninsured is available at:


Physicians for a National Health Program is a membership organization that advocates for universal health care under a single-payer national health program. For commentary on state increases in the number of uninsured, call (312) 782-6006 for a local spokesperson.

Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo may be reached at (212) 305-7298 or (212) 851-5358.