Following is an article on “The Myth of the Uninsured” written by Jed Stuber, assistant editor of the Samaritan Ministries Christian Health Care Newsletter, that ran in the July 2004 issue. It’s reprinted with permission. Jed notes: “Kind of crazy that nothing about the article is really out of date. The number still gets repeated ad infinitum. So much so that Sally Pipes did a chapter on it in her new book. It starts off talking about the ‘Cover the Uninsured’ week that is held every year.” That book, “The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care: A Citizen’s Guide,” is available for free viewing in a PDF file here.
By Jed Stuber
The week of May 10-16 was the second annual “Cover the Uninsured Week,” a national campaign brought to you by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Families USA, and Commonwealth Fund. You may not recognize these advocacy groups, but other prominent national partners included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, AARP, the United Way, the American Medical Association, and BlueCross-BlueShield. Celebrity spokespeople included many Hollywood writers, producers, and actors such as this year’s National Spokesperson, Noah Wylie, star of the top-rated television drama, ER. Former Presidents Carter and Ford served as honorary co-chairs.
The first thing we should do when presented with a massive publicity campaign of this type is to take a closer look at the validity of the information being presented. One 53-page study released claims that an eye-popping 74.7 million people under the age of 65 in the United States went uninsured in 2001. This statement can be very misleading because anybody who was even briefly uninsured during a two-year period was counted. The study includes people who were only uninsured for a month or two, such as recent college graduates and people between jobs.
The most commonly quoted statistic is that 44 million Americans are uninsured, but this number also needs some examination. It too includes people uninsured for only a short time, and it counts many who are eligible for Medicaid or state insurance programs. These people have chosen not to participate in the available programs, but if they had a medical need, they would be able to apply for and receive health care coverage retroactively. Even though they don’t have health insurance, they are still provided for.
More than 15 million uninsured have incomes of $50,000 or more and would purchase insurance if they thought it valuable, but they choose not to. In fact, the fastest-growing group of uninsured people are those who earn an annual income of $75,000 or more.
Should these people be forced to participate in a government insurance program? Do we really want to completely lose the right to make our own health care decisions in this way?
Millions of illegal immigrants are included in the “uninsured” category, further inflating the numbers. Should American taxpayers accept the idea that it is their responsibility to provide for those here illegally?
Hitting a little closer to home, members of Samaritan Ministries (and similar ministries) would be included in the numbers of uninsured. Again, do we want to be forced to participate in a government mandated program or to be forced to pay the taxes to support it?
Perhaps the most important fact about the campaign is not to be found in the statistics themselves, but in the fundamental message that every American must be “covered.” That goal can only be accomplished through government coercion. Although the advocacy groups are very careful to stop short saying that they want to force all Americans into universal health care administered by the federal government, it certainly appears that this “solution” to the healthcare crisis is the one they favor.
Universal health care is an idea that won’t go away. Ten years ago, the Clinton administration suffered a major defeat when they attempted to socialize and nationalize the entire medical industry and conscript doctors and patients into a central plan. A massive outcry from Americans opposed to the plan succeeded, demonstrating that the public did not desire government health care. However, some parts of this plan have since been quietly enacted, and, as the “Cover the Uninsured Campaign” shows, the proponents of socialized medicine have not given up.
In 2003, both houses of the United States Congress enacted a bill adding a prescription drug entitlement for Medicare, and in December of 2003, President Bush signed it into law. While it included some private market initiatives for health savings accounts, it was still the largest federal entitlement since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Initial estimates for total cost to taxpayers were around $400 billion, but more sober analysis has revealed it that will cost at least one-third more. When politicians put their proposals in appealing language, the propaganda can succeed.
In 2004, health care is again a major issue, but neither party is offering any major reforms that would really help consumers take back control. The politicians aren’t short on promises to do something about the health care crisis. Listen to any state or even local political radio spot and most of them sound the same. From both sides of the aisle, they tend to speak in terms of entitlements that all Americans “deserve.”
The underlying assumptions held by the “Cover the Uninsured” sponsors are probably more dangerous than their faulty statistics about the uninsured. The belief in universal health care assumes that all individuals should have a guarantee of complete coverage of all health care services regardless of how they live. This discourages personal responsibility and wise use of health care resources. It takes away the individual’s ability to negotiate fair prices. It also discourages true charity where neighbors help out neighbors. It causes artificial price inflation and has the potential to become a huge, impersonal, corrupt bureaucracy.
This approach to providing for health care costs would result in a massive increase in control of our lives by the federal government and a corresponding loss of individual freedom. In most socialized systems, physicians and other health care providers are severely restricted from providing services to anyone “outside” the system. It could even be illegal for a doctor to treat a person for a cash payment, thus crippling the freedom of Samaritan Ministries members to assist one another with health care needs. If we Americans get tired of fighting this battle and allow the relentless use of misleading statistics to pressure us into accepting a universal health care system, none of us will escape its clutches.
More information on studies mentioned in this article and a more detailed analysis of the statistics regarding insurance are available from the Heartland Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to empowering consumers. You can subscribe to their monthly publication, Health Care News, and access thousands of studies on healthcare reform at www.heartland.org.