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U.S. uninsured figures found to be overstated

March 24, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The government's estimate of the number of people in the U.S. without health insurance fell by nearly 2 million Friday, but not because anyone got health coverage.

The Census Bureau said it had been overstating the number of people without health insurance since 1995. The agency blamed the inflated numbers on a computer programming error.

The agency reissued figures for 2004 and 2005 on Friday. It plans to issue new numbers for every affected year in August, when the 2006 numbers are scheduled for release.

Health insurance statistics are widely cited in debates over the nation's healthcare system, expected to be a major issue in the 2008 presidential election.

The revised estimates show that 44.8 million people, or 15.3% of the population, had no health insurance in 2005. The original estimate was 46.6 million, or about 15.9% of the population.

"The total impact is small," said Ruth Cymber, the agency's director of communications.

She said similar reductions are expected for previous years, leaving historical trends unchanged. In 2005, the percentage of people without health insurance was at its highest point since 1998, according to the original numbers.

Workers discovered the programming error when they were updating the computer system.

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