Monday, August 17, 2009

More on the Uninsured

Another article takes a closer look at the "47 million uninsured" statistic which is constantly being quoted as evidence that our health-care system needs greater government involvement. (For my first post on this topic see "Miscounting the Uninsured.")

In "The Fuzzy Math of 47 Million," Robert Romano points out that the numbers just don't add up. Although the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 report, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States,” states that 46.9 million people (16% of our population) are uninsured in the U.S., a closer look at the data within that same report demonstrates that the more accurate figure is 15.8 million uninsured (5% of our population.)

Here is the chart from Romano's article which puts the data into graph form:

You can click on the image to go to the original article for a larger view, but here is a summary of the numbers:

In 2006, 67.9% of the US population had private insurance, and 27% were covered by some type of government plan. That gives a total of 94.9% of the population as having some type of health insurance, leaving 5.1% uninsured.

The 46.9 million figure is due to double counting of some subsets and the inclusion of anyone who lost their insurance at anytime during the year--even if they subsequently regained it. As Romano explains:

Remarkably, the number of individuals without any insurance at all has remained about the same, meaning that folks who did lose insurance regain it in less than a year’s time. In both 2005 and 2006, the number of absolutely uninsured was 15 million. In the more recent 2007 report the number decreased to 13.6 million who had no health coverage at all. 285 million did have coverage out of a total of 298.6 million.

The problem of the uninsured has been grossly exaggerated by those who want to implement greater government control of health care in the U.S. This is just one of many areas where statistics are inaccurately used, and repeatedly stated until they are taken as statements of fact. In my next post, I will tackle another highly misleading claim: that Medicare has lower administration costs and thus is more efficient than private health insurance companies.

Update 8/18: Another article on this topic "Who are the uninsured?"

Update 9/12/09: From Carpe Diem:

And from Reason TV:


Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you would look at the health care issue differently if the number (47 million) was correct.

Beth said...

Differently? In what way?

If 15% of the nation truly could not afford health insurance, then it would indicate a larger problem than currently exists. I do not think it would constitute a "crisis" demanding passage of a 1000+ bill which no one fully understands. I also would not change my assessment of the root of the problem or the proper solution.

The size of the disenfranchised population would be important in setting priorities as to which of the many problems facing our country needs the most immediate attention: unemployment, housing affordability, access to medical care, financial stability, energy supply etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but even if the number was 47 million, on principal, government controlled health care is not the solution. So, while it would show a major problem (if the number was true),the solution is still free market.