UNINSURED II: EBRI Report Examines ‘Varying’ Estimates
Estimates of the uninsured population "vary widely" based on different surveys -- variations addressed in a new report released by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The report, "Counting the Uninsured: A Comparison of National Surveys," explains the often "inconsistent" findings of seven major surveys, including the U.S. Census Bureau's "extensively used" Current Population Survey, which registered 44.3 uninsured Americans in 1998. According to the report, "measuring and understanding who constitute the uninsured is crucial," because the figure often determines funding for federal programs, such as CHIP, as well as state and local initiatives. In addition to the CPS, the EBRI report examined the Survey of Income and Program Participation, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the Community Tracking Study, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the National Health Interview Survey and the National Survey of America's Families. In the seven surveys, estimates of the uninsured population ranged from 19 million to 44 million, depending on the time frame covered and methods used to collect the information. "It is important to understand these differences [in surveys] for a number of reasons," EBRI President and CEO Dallas Salisbury said, adding, "The projected cost of implementing policy proposals often depends on the estimates of the number of people the proposals will affect." Many states -- such as Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin -- have questioned the validity of these surveys, citing the "small sample size" used, and have conducted their own studies of the number of uninsured. Still, the report concluded, "Research needs to continue to increase understanding of the differences among the surveys and to improve on [methods] to count the uninsured" (EBRI release, 9/25). To read the report's executive summary, go to http://www.ebri.org/ibex/ib225.htm. A full copy of the report can be obtained for $25 by calling 202-775-9132.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.