America’s 6 million to 8 million uninsured need help with health care bills

Between 6 million and 8 million Americans are chornically uninsured and need help when it comes to paying their medical bills, not the 45.7 million that advocates of socialized medicine are fond of citing.

Sandy Pipes, an expert on the American and Canadian health insurance markets, is president and CEO of Pacific Research Institute, and she writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that:

The Census Bureau doesn’t tell us that 45.7 million people are chronically uninsured for the entire year. The agency has stated elsewhere that “the CPS estimate of the number of people without health insurance more closely approximates the number of people who are uninsured at a specific point in time during the year than the number of people uninsured for the entire year.”

In other words, many of the survey respondents counted as “uninsured” may have experienced only a temporary interruption in their insurance. This circumstance is quite common. When workers quit or lose their job, they are technically uninsured. But they are usually in transition between one employer-provided insurance policy and another.

Despite the media’s tendency to depict the 45.7 million uninsured as a single, homogeneous group, the demographic character of these individuals cuts across age, ethnic, and socioeconomic categories. Many are uninsured for reasons unrelated to cost and don’t need to be “rescued” by mandatory socialized medicine.

We may be accustomed to thinking of the uninsured as low-income individuals and struggling families. But the Census Bureau data show that many are relatively affluent. Over 17.5 million—38 percent—of the uninsured make more than $50,000 a year. And 9.1 million have an annual income of over $75,000 a year.

How can this be? In part, it’s because a number of financially comfortable young Americans choose not to purchase health insurance. Known in the healthcare trade as the “invincibles”—because they’re so sure they won’t get sick—these young singles would rather keep their money than shell out for expensive monthly insurance premiums because of the many mandates and regulations place on insurers by the states.

This intentional avoidance of health insurance is quite common. According to the Commonwealth Fund, Americans age 19-29 comprise one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the uninsured population.

If the fact that over a third of the uninsured are pulling down more than $50,000 a year isn’t shocking enough, how about this: Nearly 10 million uninsured aren’t even U.S. citizens!

It’s certainly unfortunate that these individuals don’t have health insurance, of course. But they can still get free treatment in emergency rooms. And even a fully nationalized healthcare system would be unlikely to provide them with health insurance.

Another 14 million of the uninsured are fully eligible for government assistance through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP.

How does that break down? A 2008 study by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute showed that a whopping 70 percent of uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid, SCHIP, or both programs. And roughly 27 percent of non-elderly Americans who are eligible for Medicaid haven’t enrolled and simply live their lives without health insurance, according to the Urban Institute.

And, thus, she comes up with her estimate of 8 million uninsured Americans.

Over the years, I’ve blogged on other reports and Census Bureau data that shows there are about 6 million to 10 million uninsured.

The question remains: Do we want to give up our relative freedom to choose health care insurers and providers and to play important roles in making decisions about our health care just because only 6 million to 10 million are uninsured?

Do we want to create socialized medicine and hire Barack Obama or John McCain to determine our health care needs? Would that be better than having faceless bureaucrats at HMOs make such decisions? Most Americans have gotten out from under the HMO and PPO restrictions over the last dozen years or so.

Do we want to back slide to the days of HMOs times 100?

I don’t think so.

Over the last 69 months or so, I’ve posted 178 blogs that had “uninsured” in the headlines or discussed the “uninsured.”

Click on the “uninsured” category at the end of this piece to see some of those articles. To see more on the “uninsured,” use the search box in the third column of this page.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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