If conservatives don’t counter them, government-run health care will be here to stay.
(Page 2 of 4)
But this doesn’t fully convey the problematic nature of the statistic. As even the authors of the Census Bureau report themselves acknowledge, “health insurance coverage is likely to be underreported” in the Current Population Survey from which the health insurance data is derived. The reason is that when asked about their health coverage status in the prior calendar year, some may answer the question as intended, but others may cite their current insurance status, and others may say they were without insurance even if they only spent a portion of the year without coverage.
“[T]he estimate of the number of people without health insurance,” according to the report, “more closely approximates the number of people who are uninsured at a specific point in time during the year than the number of people uninsured for the entire year.”
In reality, a person who goes without coverage for a few months while between jobs is in a completely different boat from somebody who is permanently without insurance. But the broad citation of the headline figure would have you believe that there are literally 46 million people who never, ever, have coverage.
Another problem with citing the 46 million figure is that many of those who are identified as uninsured are actually eligible for existing government programs but simply never bothered to enroll. In 2003, a BlueCross BlueShield Association study esti mated that about 14 million of the uninsured were eligible for programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP. These people would be signed up for government insurance if they ever made it to the emergency room.
In addition, some of the 46 million could theoretically afford health coverage, but chose not to purchase any. In 2007, 17.6 million of the uninsured had annual incomes of more than $50,000 and 9.1 million earned more than $75,000. As Sally Pipes notes in the Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen’s Guide, those making more than $75,000 per year are part of the fastest-growing segment of the uninsured population.
The Census figures also show that 18.3 million of the uninsured were under 34. Some in this age group may have simply determined that they are young and healthy and thus can do without coverage.
When all these factors are put together, the 2003 BlueCross BlueShield study determined that 8.2 million Americans are actually without coverage for the long haul, because they are too poor to purchase health care but earn too much to qualify for government assistance. Even being without insurance still doesn’t mean they won’t have access to care, because federal law forbids hospitals from denying treatment to patients who show up at the emergency rooms.
The Myth: Universal health care will save money, because we’re already picking up the tab for the uninsured when they obtain care they don’t pay for.
Why It Matters: By stressing that covering the uninsured will reduce the reliance on free care, it assuages concerns about the cost of achieving universal coverage. Raising alarm over emergency room costs also fuels the push for mandates requiring that individuals either obtain insurance or pay a fine.
The Reality: The government can reduce the costs of uncompensated health care by expanding coverage, but those “savings” are more than offset by the expense of insuring more people.
The total cost of uncompensated care at hospitals, physicians’ offices, and community providers was $56 billion in 2008, according to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates. While that isn’t chump change, it represents only about 2 percent of the nation’s overall health care expenditures. By contrast, the cost of the type of health care plan being envisioned by President Obama and Democrats in Congress has been estimated to be in the range of $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years. So even assuming these uncompensated costs could be completely eliminated through universal health care, it wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of increasing coverage. However, experience at the state level suggests that expanding coverage would cut only a fraction of such costs.
In 2006, Massachusetts enacted a landmark health care reform that increased coverage by expanding Medicaid eligibility and providing subsidies for citizens to purchase coverage on a state-run insurance exchange. As more people obtained insurance to comply with a mandate, uncompensated care declined by 38 percent between 2006 and 2009 (projected), saving the state $246 million. However, the Commonwealth Care subsidy program created as a result of the 2006 reform is projected to cost $820 million in 2009 alone, and during the same time period, the state’s expanded Medicaid program saw its price tag swell by $1.1 billion. So in other words, while costs declined by a quarter of a billion dollars in one area, they increased by nearly $2 billion in other areas.
Whatever arguments may be made in favor of universal health care, the idea that it is fiscally prudent does not stand up to close scrutiny.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?