Friday, August 27, 2004

Things Not Always What They Seem

From today's Wall Street Journal we find an excellent analysis of the recently reported data related to uninsured Americans. Yesterday, the US Census Bureau reported that 45 million Americans lived without health insurance during at least part of 2003. This total represents 15.6% of the US population. On the surface, this is a staggering total.

The Census Bureau report prompted John Kerry to issue a written statement, outlining the choices the US faces in this presidential election:
    "Four more years of an administration that puts the narrow interests of the few ahead of the interests of most Americans, or new leadership that will serve as a champion for the middle-class and those struggling to join it."

So does the US Census Bureau support Kerry's notion that the Bush administration is putting "the narrow interests of the few ahead of the interests of most Americans"?

During the 'Clinton boom years' of 1997 and 1998, the percentage of uninsured Americans was actually higher than what it was in 2003. So while it is true that there were more Americans uninsured in 2003 than there were in 2002, yesterday's number confirms that we are no worse off in this regard than we were under the previous administration. So much for Kerry's premise.

Taking a closer look, we see that there are as many 14 million Americans who are eligible for Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance, but who have failed to apply. Clearly, these 14 million should not be classified as "uninsured" because insurance is indeed available. Secondly, the census data reveals that, of the 43 million uninsured, 15 million earn more than $50,000 per year. Clearly, these citizens could afford health insurance but choose to roll the dice, so to speak, and prefer consumption over health insurance.

To conclude, 29 million of the uninsured Americans are either eligible or should realistically be able to purchase insurance. This leaves 13 million Americans, or less than 5%, without health insurance and without the means to provide for themselves in this regard. Clearly it is in our nation's best interests that adequate medical coverage be provided to all Americans, but the current 'crisis' is not nearly as broad in scope as the Democrats would lead us to believe.

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