The Right Prescription

Illusions and Delusions About the Uninsured

The biggest health-care lie of all.

By 8.10.09

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"Obamacare" was launched in the wake of a long, persistent Greek Chorus of claims that 46 million Americans lacked health insurance, had to have it and only the federal government could "reform" the system to make it possible. The number of uninsured was climbing steadily, said Dr. Obama.

The new president's revival meetings (aka "town halls") often featured examples of the inequities of the present system: a cancer victim denied coverage, someone who couldn't afford a hip replacement, and so forth. Dr. Obama's prescriptions were repeated over and over: His plan would reduce the nation's health care bill; a "public option" would force private carriers to be more competitive; no one with private health insurance would lose it, and so forth. All this would happen if only we covered those 46 million uninsured.

Just who are the uninsured? In 2005 the Congressional Budget Office reported that 15.9 percent of Americans were in that category, down slightly from 16 percent in 1998. In fact, health care of children improved strongly. In 1998, the CBO reported 11.1 million without coverage; in 2005, 8.3 million.

The 2005 CBO report said that the majority of the uninsured are either illegal immigrants (as many as 12 million), or earn between $50,000 and $75,000 annually (8.3 million), or earn more than $75,000 a year (8.74 million) and elect not to purchase health insurance. That adds up to 29 million of 46 million total.

Of the rest, approximately 8.8 million are without insurance for four months or less and then return to the ranks of the insured. That leaves some 8.2 million Americans the Kaiser Family Foundation's analysis describes as "chronically uninsured."

There are some questions Dr. Obama never addresses in his informercial press conferences and "town hall" meetings. Meanwhile, his allies in Congress concern themselves only with the minutiae involved in negotiating bills they can get to the floor for a vote.

One very big question is, should U.S. taxpayers be required to pay for health insurance for millions of alien immigrants and people who make enough to pay for their own coverage but choose not to?

Another is, can't Congress and the Obama Administration devise a way to cover the "chronically uninsured" without upending a system that covers close to the 90 percent of the population and with which some 70 percent of those covered tell pollsters they are satisfied?

A third question: Why is there no talk about tort reform to curb outlandish malpractice awards?These have driven the cost of malpractice insurance through the roof for many physicians. The cost is spread throughout the system. (We know the answer: the trial lawyers' lobby is a potent contributor to many Democratic lawmakers.)

Dr. Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill aren't looking for a way to cover those "chronically uninsured" folks because their real agenda is to convert the nation's health care system to a universal, single-payer, government-operated one.

How? The "public option" insurance, if enacted, would have lower fees because it would be subsidized by taxes. The result would be, in time, to drive private carriers out of business. In addition, Obamacare includes a requirement that all employers cover all employees and, if they don't, they'll be required to pay a special tax (about 8 percent) into a coverage pool. More than a few businesses will decide the tax is cheaper than health insurance, thus driving more workers into the "public option."

It's a neat trick if the "single-payer" proponents can get away with it. President Obama is squarely in their corner, as attested by several recorded and video'd comments to that effect dating from his days as a state senator up through his presidential campaign. Not surprisingly, he does not bring it up now because to do so would drive his approval numbers ever downward. Americans, after all, don't want bureaucrats instead of themselves and their doctors making health care decisions for them.

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”