While researching on the origin of the oft quoted "47 million uninsured," I stumbled onto a wonderful article by June and Dave O'Neill, "Who are the Uninsured?" One of several aspects of the health-care coverage issue which they analyze is a comparison of the amount and type of services received between those with insurance in the U.S. and those without. As you would expect, those with insurance obtain more medical services, but there are some fascinating details about this.
First, when looking at who received a routine check-up, flu shot, mammogram, PAP smear, PSA test (screen for prostate cancer) and a blood pressure check with the past 2 years, the uninsured received 50-60% of the services that those with insurance received! Not bad. When measured as dollars per capita, the uninsured received only 40% of what the insured received, significantly less but still a substantial amount of health care.
But most interesting of all, the authors compared cancer screening rates of the U.S. uninsured to rates in Canada under universal health coverage. Forty-nine percent of uninsured U.S. women aged 40-69 had a mammogram within the last 2 years, whereas 65% of these women had one within the past 5 years--which is identical to the percent of Canadian women who received a mammogram over the same time period! This equivalence also holds for PAP smears, with 80% of both Canadian women and U.S. uninsured women receiving this cervical cancer screen within the past 5 years. The rate for insured U.S. women is higher at 92%.
Men fare even worse in Canada. In the past 5 years, 16% of Canadian men aged 40-64 received PSA testing, compared to 31% of U.S. uninsured and 52% of U.S. insured men.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Our system is not perfect. Too many individuals are currently priced out of health insurance and consequently forgo needed medical care. But as the above figures demonstrate, the answer is not more government involvement. The solution is to understand what has made the cost of health insurance premiums and of medical care rise faster than the the general rate of price inflation.
But that will have to wait until another post.