I wish that I had the PR skills of Families USA. When I released the U.S. Index of Health Ownership, comparing government interference in health care across the land, I only did it once. Families USA has figured out that if it releases the same analysis for each state on a separate date, this Chinese water torture will lead to multiple media hits. Oh well: live and learn.
Today, we learned that 3,100 Californians – 8 per day – died in 2006 because they were uninsured. Families USA has already rolled out these numbers for other states, and California is not the last. What the self-styled advocacy group is doing, basically, is taking the Urban Institute’s national estimate of 22,000 “deaths from uninsurance” in 2006, itself an update of a well-known estimate of 18,000 deaths in 2002 from the Institute of Medicine.
These folks are not all wrong, but it’s a flawed number, nevertheless. The “number of uninsured” that Families USA and the Urban Institute and the Institute of Medicine used is from the Current Population Survey (CPS) which significantly overstates the number of uninsured, as I have discussed. Indeed, the number of long-term uninsured is likely half of the headline figure of 47 million. Furthermore, 60 percent of California’s “uninsured” children are eligible for government health care but not enrolled, as are 10 percent of the state’s “uninsured” adults. Until we unravel these numbers, we cannot possibly tell how many people “die of uninsurance”, in a meaningful sense.
Furthermore, although the Urban Institute’s author points out that subsequent research on “deaths due to uninsurance” controls for household income and other factors, the UI relies on updating the original Institute of Medicine’s analysis, which did not.
Also, as Professor Christopher Conover has revealed, more people die of over-regulation of health care than uninsurance. Furthermore, Families USA/Urban Institute/Institute of Medicine only look at people between the ages of 25 and 64. The latter is appropriate because pretty much everyone 65 and older is dependent on Medicare.
But only 3.8 percent (602,000) of all Americans between 25 and 64 years old died in 2006. If 3.6 percent (22,000) of that 3.8 percent died of “uninsurance”, that’s a vanishingly small fraction, even if the number was right.
But this may all be beside the point: Families USA does not have a solution to “uninsurance”. The “universal”, government-controlled, health care that it propounds is so laden with unintended consequences that the resulting “health insurance” would have very different, and negative, effects from that which we call “health insurance” today.