The following article is an except form pages 59-62 of my book The Conscience of a Young Conservative. If you enjoy, free PDF copies are available through Liberty.me, and print copies are available on Amazon. 

One apparent flaw in the American health care system is the extremely large number of uninsured individuals. Politicians pushing for more government control in health care usually cite the number of uninsured as being between 45 and 50 million. This number is incredibly overestimated and is easy to cut down to size, as bulleted on the next page. Note that there is overlap between groups.

  • 7 million of those uninsured are not citizens of the United States.[1] Even under a system where every single American citizen purchased insurance, these non-citizens would give the false appearance of an uninsured group, and shouldn’t be included in the statistic.
  • 12-14 million are eligible for government assistance but haven’t signed up.[2] If anyone in this category visits the emergency room, taxpayers pick up the tab.  Around 70 percent of uninsured children are in this group.[3]
  • 17 million have an annual income of over $50,000 a year, and eight million in this group make over $75,000.[4] If they were to fall ill or suffer an injury, they would be able to afford the costs of healthcare. This group represents the voluntarily uninsured.
  • 9 million are aged 18-24, an age group which requires a small amount of medical care. Overall, the amount of deaths per year in this age group is declining. In the 2006-2007 period, deaths in this group dropped 2.8%.[5] Even if a person in this group were to require surgery, this age group has an average annual salary of $31,790, so most individuals in this group would be able to afford care.[6] Forcing this group to be insured is a difficult task. One third of those in Massachusetts who refuse to purchase health insurance (which is required by law) are in this age group.

It is also important when looking at the data to view the uninsured not solely as a statistical category, but as individuals. Out of the total number of uninsured, between 21-31 million individuals are uninsured for the entire year.[7] This means that anywhere between 15-25 million out of the 50 million will likely get insurance soon. The permanently uninsured make up a very small percentage of the uninsured, and only 16 percent of the uninsured remain uninsured for longer than 24 months.[8] Luckily, those so-called “permanently uninsured” are comprised mostly of people who can afford insurance but chose not to purchase it. From 1993-2003, those with household incomes under $25,000 a year showed the largest decline in the uninsured rate, with a 15 percent drop. Meanwhile, those making $25,000-$50,000 had a 13 percent increase in their uninsured rate, those making $50,000-$75,000 showed a 54 percent increase, and those making over $75,000 showed a 130 percent increase.[9]

There is a problem group of individuals who fall between the cracks, but the amount of people in this situation can be estimated to be below ten million based on the data I have provided. Keeping this in mind, it is important not to tie a lack of health insurance with a lack of health care. Appearing on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ during a defense of the Occupy Wall Street movement, former Congressman Alan Grayson claimed that fifty million Americans “can’t even see a doctor.”[10] While there is obviously a gap in health care spending between those with and without insurance, the uninsured are receiving care. In 2001, one study published in Health Affairs showed that with public and private/charitable contributions included, $1,587 is spent each year per uninsured person.[11]

 

[1] Klein, Philip. “The Matter With Myths.” The American Spectator, July-Aug. 2009.  <http://spectator.org/archives/2009/07/21/the-matter-with-myths>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “A Randomized Trial of Effects of Parent Mentors on Insuring Minority Children.” ClinicalTrials.gov, 20 Dec. 2010. <http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01264718>.

[4] Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor and Cheryl Hill Lee, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005,” U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, August 2006, <http://www.census.gov/prod/2006pubs/p60-231.pdf>. (See Table 8)

[5] Xu, Jiaquan, Kenneth D. Koc hanek, Sherry L. Murphy, and Betzaida Tejada-Vera. “National Vital Statistics Reports: Table A. Percentage change in death rates and age-adjusted death rates in 2007 from 2006, by age, race, and sex: United States. Centers for Disease Control, 20 May 2010.” <http://www.cdc.gov/NCHS/data/nvsr/nvsr58/nvsr58_19.pdf>.

[6] Ibid., Table 1 (sub heading Income and Earnings Summary Measures by Selected Characteristics: 2006 and 2007).

[7] Gratzer, David. “The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care.” (New York: Encounter Books, 2006), p. 85.

[8] Ibid., p. 86.

[9] Ibid., p. 88.

[10] Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO, Aired October 7th 2011.

[11] Gratzer, “The Cure,” p. 89.