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Uninsured Americans: 30 Million is Still a Marketing Figure

John on September 13, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Megan McArdle does the math and finds that even the new number the President trotted out Wednesday night is bogus:

The actual number of the uninsured, according to the census, is 46.3 million.  Of those, 36.8 million were natives of the US or naturalized citizens.  There is no “alternate figure” for the number of American citizens that includes legal residents.  Legally resident immigrants are fine people.  But they are, definitionally, not American citizens.

Now when I click through to the Kaiser link that Orszag provides, I find that it says that “A quarter of the uninsured (11 million) are eligible for public programs but not enrolled.”  36.8mm – 11mm is 25.8 million, not more than 30 million.  But of course, that 11 million figure is from 2007 and will have grown, because that’s what population statistics do–there’s no evidence that we’ve gotten better at enrolling people in Medicaid since 2007.  I mean, the Medicare rolls have gone up.  But the number of poor people went up in tandem.   Demographics being what they are, the number of seniors on Medicaid for nursing home care went up as well.

So it’s actually something less than 25.8 million. How much less?  Dunno.

A “conservative” estimate would have been “more than 20 million American citizens”, not “more than 30 million”.

Of course, if they’d wanted to be really conservative, they would have grappled with the other figures in that study, such as the 15%–6.7 million +/- natural growth–that Kaiser designated as being able to afford health insurance.  To be fair, the study also concluded that some of them might have difficulty obtaining it for various reasons, so it’s hard to know exactly how many of them to include.  Still, the number of people who can afford insurance, but choose not to buy it, is not zero, or even close to zero…

Still, once you adjust for (mostly young people) who are choosing not to buy insurance, and families taking a short term gamble between jobs, neither of whom I think can technically be said to be “unable to afford insurance”, you’re conservatively going to end up with a number below 20 million.  Generously, a serious “conservative estimate” would be “more than 15 million”.  But of course, the administration does not really want to be conservative; they want to have the flashiest numbers possible for their plan.  All administrations do.

We’re moving the entire system toward complete government control for the sake of 5% of the population. There are much better and cheaper ways to get to universal coverage.

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