Thursday, October 14, 2004

I Am One of the 45 Million Without Health Insurance

There's a famous quote by Benjamin Disraeli (often misattributed to Mark Twain): "There are three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies and statistics." Last nights debate was full of all three.

The one I want to specifically address is the number being bantered around stating that there are almost 45 million people who are uninsured. The obvious conclusion they want people to draw is that the economy is so bad and health insurance premiums are so high that a huge percentage (almost 16%!!!) of the American population is without health insurance (and therefore without health care?).

Well, I have a confession to make. My family of four are 4 of that 45 million without health care. That's right. We have been victims of the Bush economy. Now before anyone feels too sorry for me or my family, let me explain. I changed jobs at the beginning of the year. My last job ended on the last work day of January and I started my new job on the 1st of March. My last job had very good coverage without a deductible and my current job has even better coverage without a deductible, but for 1 whole month (February, the shortest month of the year)my family and I did not have health insurance.

That's right. That statistic includes people that are between jobs and have lost their insurance temporarily until their next job starts up.

Alan Reynolds from the CATO Institute wrote an article in the Washington Post on October 5 and it's reprinted on CATO's website called Politicized 'Facts' debunking many of these "statistics about the loss of jobs, the number of people in poverty, and the number of people who are uninsured.

To fix such problems, a superior Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is less frequent but more intense. That survey is conducted four times a year but not every year. In 1998, the latest available, the SIPP survey found only 21 million without health insurance for the entire year — half the number in the headlines. The SIPP survey confirmed, however, the CPS finding that about 40 million were indeed without insurance for part of the year. In May, a widely ignored Congressional Budget Office report noted that "between half and two-thirds of the people who experienced a period of time without insurance... had coverage for other portions of that year." Although reporters and politicians will keep shouting that more than 40 million people are continuously without health insurance, that is just another Big Lie.

One reason many young people lack health insurance is that they rightly expect paying their own medical bills will be cheaper in most years than paying insurance premiums. One reason a disproportionate number of Hispanics lack health insurance is that many are here illegally, and therefore avoiding a conspicuous paper trail.

These are the things Kerry doesn't tell you. One thing that made me chuckle, though, is that it may come back to haunt him. Right after the debate, one commentator on NBC showed how his health plan will fall well short of covering the 45 million people without health insurance.

The fact remains, the economy is growing at 3.2 percent. We have gained 1.2 million jobs since the beginning of the year. There are only 21 million people without health insurance, most of which are without it by choice and not because they are too poor. The drop in the median household income (3.4 percent) has been lower than in the last 3 recessions (4.7 - 5.4 percent). And the percent of people that live under the poverty line (12.1 percent) is lower than it has been from 1980 to 1998.

They can't dispute the facts so they use statistics instead. As Gregg Easterbrook said, "Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything."