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How Do You Count the Uninsured?

In my chat last week, I got a bunch of questions on how to count the uninsured, and whether this or that number was legit, and whether this wasn't really all illegal immigrants and dumb teenagers. The answer, essentially, is that you can count this in all sorts of different ways, and it just depends on your preferred assumptions. Anthony Wright has a great post laying out the possibilities. Some push the number way up — like counting anyone who has been uninsured over a two-year period, which describes a solid third of the population — and some push it further down. You can make your own. Conversely, if you're interested in how the administration has settled on its number, Peter Orszag explains here.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 14, 2009; 4:43 PM ET
Categories:  Health Coverage , Health Reform  
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Comments

Hi Ezra! I have a big question for you. I have scoured the internet and I can't find a definitive answer to this - is the proposed health care subsidy tax credit supposed to be refundable? It doesn't specify on the White House website, but I can't imagine they'd actually pass this with a non-refundable tax credit while forcing poor people to buy health insurance. It's bad enough they have to buy insurance out of pocket all year and wait for the tax credit. But if it's non-refundable, and, say, you only have $400 in tax liability, then that's all the subsidy you'll get - not even CLOSE to enough to cover $200/month premiums!

Please tell me they aren't actually going to do this with a non-refundable credit?
Thanks otherwise for being the only good thing at the Washington Post!

Posted by: bridgietherease | September 14, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

so do you count those making over a certain amount that don't feel like they need it and would rather have what many would consider luxuries (a nice car for example) and make over a set amount, say $70,000 per year? Because if you want to inflate it higher you can but i thought the idea of reform was to help those that need it the most??

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 14, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

A couple things that Wright's post doesn't address:

- About half of illegal immigrants already have insurance.

- Those who are eligible for other insurance programs remain uninsured. Unless there is a reasonable plan on the docket for actually getting them covered, in which case we'd still be looking at higher costs for bringing them into the system that we're not accounting for now, despite technically already covering them. If anything, this is a moral argument for a program that will actually get the insurance to these people, as we've already promised to do so.

Posted by: TheodoreLittleton | September 15, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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