Wednesday, June 24, 2009

46 Million Uninsured Americans

46 Million Uninsured Americans, a figure issued by President Obama is being disputed by some physicians.

First, to be clear, that number 46 million is an estimate at best and assuming teh number to be in the ball park, the membership of that group is a constantly evovlving and shifting group. Perhaps only about 25 percent of that number is truly uninsured for a signficant period of time, i.e. more than a year. On any given day, you will find people are uninsured but ask them six months later and you will find a majority of them are now insured. To be blunt, it is a highly fluid situation.

But here is something that is not being discussed and that is what this piece is trying to say, you have to examine who is in that group and why.

Two other facts, one statistical and one personal. First the statistical: when I was a health care lobbyist about ten years ago and working on the issue of the uninsured in America, 44-45 million was the number we used. So, the problem has not really gotten any worse and any change from ten years ago to today can be easily explained by the massive job losses we have suffered in the past six months alone.

Second, for a period of about two years, I had no health insurance. To be honest, I was a college student and was in very good health. I was fit, I was young, I didn't drink much, smoke or do drugs. I exercised and ate pretty decent for a 25 year old. Until that time in my life I had been living with my folks and covered on their health care or in the Navy where the military provided my health care. I simply didn't have health insurance and didn't have the money to buy health insurance. Fortunately, I was healthy and didn't need it.

I mention this only because there are a lot of people who make the same calculation that I did, namely that my limited resources were better spent on other things, like housing, food and my education. Everyday, there is a percentage of people who are uninsured because they choose to be uninsured. It is a calcualtion they make, and they should be entitled to make that calculation for themselves. Bby the way if I had had a family at that time or a chronic medical condition, such a diabetes, the calculus would have been very different).

The problem with citing the statistic of the number of uninsured, whether it be 4 million or 46 million, is that the figure is used to push a program that would require everyone to get health insurance, whether they want it or not. That is not American, and that is not necessary.

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