UPDATE: 15,000 People Lost Health Insurance Per Day In 2009

Our guest blogger is Judy Feder, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

polifactYesterday, PolitiFact gave a “false” rating to Sen. Harkin’s claim that “today and every day, an estimated 14,000 Americans will lose their health insurance coverage.” The statistic cited by Sen. Harkin comes from a report we released in February showing that the job market turmoil at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 led to 14,000 people losing their health care coverage a day. Our report employed a method – based on an Urban Institute analysis co-authored by health economists John Holahan and A. Bowen Garret – of extrapolating insurance losses from the rise in unemployment rates.

In July, PolitiFact took a look at our report and found it to be “mostly true,” with the caveat that the rate could actually be higher than 14,000. In its latest report, PolitiFact ran the numbers on its own, and found the rate of daily losses to be lower (between 7,524 and 7,784).

While the methodology we used in February (and which PolitiFact now uses in their own analysis) offered the best approach for assessing the state of health insurance losses at the time, newer, more precise data are now available – and those data show that more than 15,000 people have lost their health insurance per day in 2009.

Specifically, we now know the extent to which enrollment is dropping among the nation’s biggest private insurers in 2009, based on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of the SEC filings of the six largest publicly-held insurance companies. Based on those filings, Kaiser estimated that in the first three quarters of 2009, 4.2 million people have lost their private insurance – an average of 15,385 people per day.

These data, and the conclusions they generate, are more accurate both because they are a more direct measurement of insurance losses, and because they are not subject to the month-to-month volatility of the unemployment rate.

Based on these reasons, we enthusiastically stand by both our conclusions and the point that Sen. Harkin and others have been using them to make: that the rate at which Americans are losing their health insurance coverage is profoundly alarming, and clearly demonstrates the urgent need for reform.