“Almost 50 Million” Uninsured? Not So Fast

Medical care services are not a right; they are a good produced by physical and human capital in limited supply. If demand increases, which is Obama’s point in extending health insurance, prices must increase accordingly. He cannot repeal the laws of economics; costs are real. If they are incurred, someone has to pay them. Politicians can control them however, by refusing to pay for the services.

This is called rationing.

I digress. The real aim of this ‘Welcome Back’ column is the dishonest nature of the health insurance debate thus far, and most importantly, Michael Moore’s nice, round figure of 50 million uninsured Americans. Or is it 40 million? Or 47, like Obama said? Whatever. The issue here is what Mark Twain was talking about when he said there are lies and damned lies with regards to statistics.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007 report,[1] published in August 2008, there were 45.7 million residents without some form of health insurance, down from 47 million in 2006. (2008’s report will be released within the next couple weeks.) This is a little more than 15% of the country’s total population.

Call me heartless, but I don’t exactly think completely exploding our medical industry and handing control to the Congress critters over such a small segment of the country is a good idea. But since I like facts, and surely those 46 million Americans are not all of the same demographic, let us look at the breakdown.

Just above 5 million of the uninsured are illegal immigrants. Instead of mandating citizen paid health insurance, how about reducing the incredibly onerous restrictions to legal citizenship, thus creating opportunities for choice?

A third of the uninsured (≈15 million) are eligible for government-sponsored programs (Medicaid and/or SCHIP, etc.) but have failed to enroll.[2] Within this group a third live in either New York, Texas, or California. And with the exception of Illinois, Florida, and Pennsylvania, every other state has less than 500,000 eligible residents who are uninsured. Remember this the next time Obama or Pelosi says we face a nationwide crisis.

The previous two groups bring us to approximately 20 million Americans who should not be in the discussion, leaving us with around 26 million uninsured. I like 26 million a lot more than 45. But wait, this is the Red & Black, not the New York Times, we like truth here!

Another third of the total number of uninsured makes more than $50,000 a year. In fact, the fasting growing segment of the uninsured is those making at least $75,000. Once again, instead of a government mandated health insurance program for every citizen, which will immediately raise costs, how about allowing more flexibility and choice for the middle class?

What we really have are 12 million Americans who make less than $75k a year with no access to government or private health insurance. This is a paltry 4% of the United States’ population. A large section of this is certainly young, healthy people who, (THE HORROR!) choose not to pay for insurance. Another large piece is those making $40,000+ and should be able to borrow and repay for medical bills without problems if need be. Taking this into consideration, I think halving the number is a safe estimate.

5-7 million Americans or 2% of the population is truly without means of obtaining health insurance. And do not mistake insurance for “health care,” as they are not synonymous. Health care begins with the individual and their diet, sleep habits, exercise, and drug intake. Health care continues onto doctor administered procedures and everything in between. Health insurance is simply a means of payment, nothing more.

After all we’ve been through bailing out banks, automakers, and appliance companies, is turning over hospitals to the government really the way to go?

[1] Census report (pdf)

[2] Blue Cross/Blue Shield report (pdf)

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