NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

MYTHS PUMP UP RANKS OF AMERICA'S UNINSURED

November 22, 2006

About 47 million Americans lack health insurance, according to the most recent Census Bureau report.  But this figure is misleading, says John C. Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

Almost every poor person in America is eligible for the federal Medicaid program and millions of near poor adults can enroll their children in a state children's health insurance program, says Goodman:

  • Estimates vary, but somewhere between one-fifth and one-third of all the uninsured can sign up for free government health insurance.
  • They can also wait to sign up in a hospital emergency room.
  • In many states people can enroll in Medicaid and get the bills paid several months after the care is delivered.

To call such people "uninsured" is a misnomer, says Goodman.  To this point, we have been assuming the 47 million number is meaningful.  It isn't.  Other government reports suggest the true number is as little as half that size.  Like unemployment, the condition of uninsurance tends to be temporary.  Of those uninsured at any point in time, 75 percent will become insured within 12 months.

So what should we do?  According to Goodman, we should:

  • Enact some baby-step reforms encouraging people to be insured, rather than uninsured. 
  • Give people who purchase their own insurance the same tax relief we give to group insurance should be a no-brainer.
  • Make it easier for employers to purchase individually owned insurance that people can take with them from job-to-job.
  • Stop pouring money into free care and Medicaid systems that encourage people to drop their private insurance and become a burden to the taxpayers.

Finally, we can all promise until next year's Census report, we will put silly ideas aside and think creatively about how to create a better health care system.

Source: John C. Goodman, "Myths pump up ranks of America's uninsured; Those without health coverage still get decent care," Detroit News, November 22, 2006.

 

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