About 45 million Americans lack health care insurance. Or do
A pro-"universal health care" television host recently cited
this widely accepted "fact." The number is bogus.
Here's the skinny.
Start with the math. We have 300 million Americans. Subtract the
45 million 15 percent of us with no health insurance. That leaves 255
million Americans, or 85 percent, with it.
And the insurance is lousy, right? Not according to a 2006 ABC
News/Kaiser Family Foundation/USA Today survey. It found that 89 percent of
Americans were satisfied with the quality of their own health care.
Nearly half of the 45 million fall in the category of my
26-year-old nephew. He smokes cigarettes, dates, eats out, goes to movies
and, like all young people, lives through his cell phone. With a slight
change in priorities, he could afford health insurance, the cost of which at
his age and health starts at about $100 a month. Take a look at a Reason
Foundation video (http://reason.tv/video/show/560.html) of interviews with a
bunch of non-health-insured 20-somethings.
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These Gen Xers copped to dropping money on clothes, booze,
nightlife, the latest tech gizmos and other things of interest to them. With
a change in priorities, these young folks far more representative of
those without insurance than the forlorn husband and wife sitting on a porch
swing could both afford and qualify for health insurance. They simply
consider it a low priority.
Millions more can access health care through SCHIP (State
Children's Health Insurance Program), Medicaid or other government programs.
But for whatever reason, 11 million people simply refuse to take advantage
Several million other Americans who want insurance do, indeed,
go without it for a time. Many are, however, between jobs, and most at
some point will find employment that either offers health insurance or
pays enough so that they can buy it. Millions more work at companies that
offer health insurance, and for a few dollars out of every paycheck, they
could add family members. They choose not to.
What about criminals without insurance? More than 2 million
Americans with access to health care, by the way use jail, prison or
penitentiary mailing addresses. And for every one behind bars, how many live
among us who survive by theft, drug dealing, prostitution or some similar
career path? Taxpayer health insurance for them, too?
So now we're down to the Americans without health insurance on a
persistent, long-term basis. This is approximately 10-15 million, a big
number to be sure. But does this warrant a government takeover of the entire
health care system?
Lacking health care insurance is not the same as lacking health
care . By law, most emergency rooms must provide health
care to both legals and illegals. Yes, they stand in line, but no health
insurance does not equal no health care.
Government (aka taxpayers) already pays half of our health care
dollar, with programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and other federal
and state plans. The stated goals are accessibility and affordability.
Congress passed Medicare in 1965. In the 20 years before the program's
inception, the cost of a day in a hospital increased threefold. In the 20
years following Medicare, a day in a hospital increased eightfold
substantially higher than inflation over that period. Because of cost
controls on government plans, providers increased the cost on everybody
So here's the question.
Do we allow a complete government takeover of the section of
health care it doesn't already run, for 10-15 million or so without health
insurance on a persistent basis? Again, 255 million Americans already have
it. Many millions more could get it if they wanted to. And 89 percent of
Americans are satisfied with the care they now receive.
What to do? Unleash the free market. Allow greater competition
among health care providers. Decrease costly regulations that increase the
price tag. Enable consumers to purchase insurance plans across state lines.
Allow non-government-licensed paraprofessionals and others currently
prevented by law from offering any medical services to provide low-cost
What about poor care and negligence? We have laws against force
and fraud, as well as a common-law duty of care. That's why God created
lawyers. (Just give us "loser pays.")
What about those who cannot afford it? What about those with
pre-existing illnesses whose insurance applications carriers turned down?
What's wrong with charity people helping people? America remains the most
generous nation on the face of the earth. We donate more of our time and
money than countries like England, Germany and Japan. During the Great
Depression, before the New Deal, charitable giving skyrocketed. After the
New Deal, charitable giving continued, but not at nearly the same rate.
People expected government to address the problem, and taxpayers felt they
gave at the office.
We can provide such "universal" coverage at a "low cost"
through rationing. That means long lines, lower quality and less innovation
for services that Americans currently take for granted.
Economists call it T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L. There ain't no such thing
as a free lunch.