Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh deceptively downplayed concerns about the increasing number of Americans lacking health insurance by touting an April 26 Los Angeles Times report on two studies suggesting that the U.S. Census Bureau has overstated the number of uninsured Americans. On the May 2 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh declared: "You've got the left trying to demagogue health care in this country. And we had news last week that actually there are not nearly as many uninsured Americans health care-wise as has been reported for the last 10 to 15 years." But Limbaugh neglected to mention that the new studies attribute the Census' possible overestimating of the uninsured to possible underestimating of those covered by Medicaid -- a program that President Bush has proposed to cut -- and that all studies agree that the number of uninsured has risen significantly in recent years, regardless of the raw numbers.
The Census' Current Population Survey estimates that about 45 million Americans went without health insurance for the entire year in 2003, but the Times reported on two recent studies suggesting that number is inflated: A study by the Actuarial Research Corp. estimated that approximately 35 million Americans are currently uninsured, while an Urban Institute report placed the number at 41 million. The article noted: "Both studies concluded that the Current Population Survey overstated the number of uninsured because it undercounted the number of people covered by Medicaid." Yet while Limbaugh accused progressives of "trying to demagogue health care," Bush's 2006 budget proposed a $45 billion cut in Medicaid [Washington Post, 2/8/05], though Congress eventually reduced that figure to $10 billion [Washington Post, 4/29/05]. If such cuts become law, the number of uninsured is likely to rise.
Beyond potential cuts in Medicaid, the Times noted that the even if the number of uninsured is lower than the Census estimates, both studies confirm that the number of Americans who lack insurance is rising: "Both groups of outside researchers found that the ranks of the uninsured continue to rise with the erosion of private coverage."