As many as 59 million Americans go without health insurance at least a part of the year, while 21 million to 31 million lack insurance year-round, according to a Congressional Budget Office study using 1998 Census data. The CBO's number for year-round uninsured differs from a previously reported estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau that 41 million Americans were uninsured during 2001. However, that estimate is based on surveys conducted in 2002, and respondents may have described their insurance status at the time rather than their status throughout the year before, the CBO said.
The report comes amid a flurry of proposals to expand healthcare coverage from Democratic presidential candidates. Today, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean unveiled an $88.3 billion plan that would provide health insurance for an estimated 31 million uninsured Americans. Dean's proposal would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to cover adults to age 25 with family incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level and adults between 25 and 64 with incomes up to 185% of the poverty level. In addition, Dean's plan would create a federally subsidized healthcare program open to other uninsured Americans and modeled after the federal employee health benefits plan. Over the weekend Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) outlined his plan for a government-run single-payer system and last month Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) proposed mandating employer coverage. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is expected to release a healthcare proposal Thursday. -- by Tony Fong