Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lack of Health Insurance is a Problem?
So says Jesse Taylor at Pandagon in attacking an argument made by my friend Jon Henke.

I'm sorry, but the overexageration of the health insurance problem is really starting to grate on me. Those who want to engage in progressive action on this "pressing social issue" should first read this piece put out by Cato, lest they overestimate the problem and mislead their audience. Here is the key part for those of you too lazy to click on the link that debunks the 45 million uninsured meme put out in elections past:

As far back as the Clinton administration, some critics have tried to create a sense of urgency behind expanding government health programs by citing a government statistic that said something like 40 million Americans lack health insurance.

Originally, "40-something-million-uninsured" meant the persistently uninsured, i.e., those who lacked health insurance for the entire year. The Congressional Budget Office shot holes in that statistic last May when it reported the correct figure is between 21 million and 31 million. Difficult as it may be to believe, an official government statistic was off the mark by maybe 110 percent.

The CBO's figures may still be too high because they count millions of Americans who are Medicaid-eligible, and therefore have coverage whenever they need it. One-third of all "uninsured" children (2.9 million) fall into this category (the CBO gives no estimate for adults). Moreover, the persistently uninsured are mostly young (39 percent are under age 25, and another 22 percent are under age 35) or healthy (86 percent report their health to be "good," "very good," or "excellent").

Rather than admit they have been overstating the number of uninsured by a factor of two and make an embarrassing retraction, which might tend to deflate the campaign, Cover the Uninsured Week continues to claim there are 44 million uninsured. The only possible way to explain this is that they take refuge in the CBO's finding that the original, faulty government statistic does happen to be roughly equivalent to the number of Americans who lack insurance at any specific point in time, rather than for the entire year.

But this broader measure just adds to the count even more not-so-hard cases. In addition to those eligible for Medicaid, for instance, it includes people who lose their health insurance for only a brief period, such as when they graduate from college or change jobs. Over 3 million such people will regain coverage within four months, and another 6 million will regain coverage within 12 months. Various studies suggest that one-fourth (10 million) of this group decline coverage that is offered by their employers, and one-fifth (8 million) live in households making more than $50,000 per year.

Do people lack health insurance? Sure they do. Just not as many as you would think if you only paid attention to the liberal echo chamber cocoon.

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