America's North Shore Journal

Supporting the Ninth Amendment

Poverty in America – 2010 – Health Insurance

Is a lack of health insurance in America a problem? According to Washington, it is. The Census Bureau has released the 2010 report on poverty in America. Table 8 on page 26 covers some of the data on those without health insurance. Here’s what caught my eye.

The Census Bureau estimates that 16.3 percent of those living in the United States have no health insurance.

45% of all non-citizens have no health coverage. Of the 49.9 million people in the United States without health insurance, 19% are non-citizens.

792,000 people over age 65 have no insurance. Why not? Medicare is designed for that age group.

16.2 million people earning less than $25,000 per year have no health insurance. Why not? Medicaid is designed for low income folks. 28.5 percent of those uninsured did not work at least one week in 2010, again the people Medicaid was designed for.

2.6 million calling themselves “disabled” have no insurance. Why not? Both Medicare and Medicaid are available to those folks.

Table 10 on page 29 shows the breakdown by type of plan. 14.5% of Americans were on Medicare and 15.9% on Medicaid.

9.5 million people earn $75,000 a year or more and have no health insurance. It’s just an assumption, but shouldn’t many of those people be able to afford coverage IF THEY WANT IT?

less non-citizens 9,667,000
less half of those eligible for Medis 8,479,000
less top earners 9,473,000
= 22,285,000

Over half of those that the Census Bureau reports as without health insurance coverage are eligible for coverage and don’t have it or don’t want it, or are non-citizens. Do we have a health insurance coverage problem in America?

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  1. “Why do we have a system that only works for people with deep pockets or good insurance?”

    Because of the very existence of “good insurance”.

    By distributing the cost, we remove natural market forces from the equation, and wind up with an unnatural market where plastic tubing goes for $20 a foot instead of $0.75, and a single generic aspirin costs $15. Where a slush of cash induces “salary greed” on the part of medical providers over time, which in turn induces “lawsuit greed” on the part of lawyers, which causes higher demand for salary among the providers who must pay $50k a year lawsuit insurance premiums to greedy insurance companies, and so forth.

    Want to reduce health care costs? It’s trivially easy (although it will force millions to find other forms of work):

    1) Outlaw anything but Catastrophic Medical insurance
    2) Outlaw malpractice lawsuits that award more than a hundred thousand dollars or so of TOTAL compensation
    3) Outlaw Federal insurance “regulations” put in place by non-elected bureaucrats (for that matter, there’s a whole bunch of other legislative and bureaucratic changes that can be made across the board that will cure most of our societal ills, but that’s another story).

    And finally, 4) Have the political and moral will to accept 5 – 10 years of higher unemployment and people suffering from insufficient or incorrect medical care while the market-based system re-balances and comes into effect. You can’t undo 50 years worth of propped-up stupid policy without the price in blood… but if we can’t accept that small price now or in the near future, then we are doomed to a MUCH higher price when the whole system falls completely apart, and I’m not talking just the medical system.

    As it stands, it’s unsustainable – but as other countries are currently demonstrating, the “government pays” system is equally unsustainable.

    It’s time to get back to the days when we paid our doctors with the modern equivalent of fresh eggs, a handful of change, and free rent in the small town, and a modest skilled tradesman’s wages in a larger city, and hospitals were founded and built by community donations, run by churches, and staffed by volunteers. And we need to stop supplying the rest of the world with drugs and devices w/out forcing them to pay for their fair share of the R&D that went into them.


  2. Most of these people don’t have health insurance because they don’t need it; they’re not sick. If they ever do get sick or injured, the hospital staff will first treat them, then help them sign up for whatever “insurance” (actually welfare benefits) they qualify for. If the hospital can’t pass the cost to taxpayers, they’ll pass it to the patients who do have insurance.

    This is not a failure of the free market, it’s a success of government intervention (e.g. artificially limiting the number of doctors, requiring hospitals to treat everyone, making health care tax-deductible for corporations but not for people) leading to the need for more government intervention, ad infinitum.

  3. 16.2 million people earning less than $25,000 per year have no health insurance. Why not? Medicaid is designed for low income folks.

    It’s not necessarily available to this group. For example, in my state, a single adult does not generally qualify for Medicaid. It’s available to the disabled, families with children, and families receiving TANF (welfare).

    If you don’t fall into these categories but have income below the poverty level (currently around $11,000 per year), you can go on a waiting list, but there’s no guarantee. Most of the people earning less than $25,000 a year are above the poverty level anyway, so Medicaid is not available to them at all.

    As far as I know, Medicaid isn’t available to people who are out of work (unless they’re below the poverty level and have less than the limit in assets, and meet any other qualifications). Unemployment doesn’t qualify you for Medicaid in itself.

    2.6 million calling themselves “disabled” have no insurance. Why not? Both Medicare and Medicaid are available to those folks.

    …if they’ve gone through the appeals process for a determination of disability. This can take a few years. During the process, disabled people are not yet eligible, even if they will eventually be declared eligible.

    9.5 million people earn $75,000 a year or more and have no health insurance. It’s just an assumption, but shouldn’t many of those people be able to afford coverage IF THEY WANT IT?

    Depends on the coverage permitted by their state. They can certainly afford major medical plans, even if raising a family… but a number of states don’t allow cheap plans. An expensive plan may run a fifth of that before-tax income – considerably more after taxes, of course – and in some places you’re not legally allowed to buy anything else.

  4. Perhaps so many of the low income workers don’t have medicaid because they don’t qualify for it. For example, NJ Medicaid demands that you be a senior, a pregnant woman, or a family head with dependent children. That doesn’t help a childless person starting out (or over) on a new career path, or who had to take any old job just to put some food on the table. The governments are not standing at the doors with boxes of money; they have all sorts of restrictions and qualifications that rule out many regular adults who just can’t make ends meet.

  5. “792,000 people over age 65 have no insurance. Why not?”

    Rich people who don’t want to bother, illegals, people who are still working and haven’t signed up for SS yet (waiting till 70 to max it out) and, of course, people who prefer to live outside systems of social control and never approach bureaucratic institutions for assistance.

  6. Why do we have a system that only works for people with deep pockets or good insurance? The real problem is a price floor set by the government in the form of medicare and medicaid. The high degree of regulation is only possible because of the licensing system put in place by the AMA and the Federal government only a hundred years ago. In the absence of government licensing the system would be an actual market with built-in flexibility.

  7. Don’t forget to count the prison population too. You might also count religious populations opposed to medical insurance.

  8. “792,000 people over age 65 have no insurance. Why not? Medicare is designed for that age group.” This requires more explanation. Are these the over 65 age illegal aliens? If you are a Social Security recipient you are paying for Medicare. (i.e. you “have Medicare”) You can not opt out of Medicare w/o also relinquishing your SS benefits. (Legislation was being proposed to enable people to opt out of Medicare – don’t think it has gone anywhere.)

  9. Do we have information on double counting? For instance, how many non-citizens earn less than $25,000/year? How many over 65 also call themselves disabled?

    Say there are a million who are non-citizens and who earn less than $25,000 a year. Then that drops the number of people by 1,000,000 (since that million was counted in two different places).

    Not saying that the insurance coverage problem isn’t a lot less than D.C. wants us to believe. Just warning that you can’t just add populations together unless they have no overlap.

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