47 Million Little Lies

Here are some hard facts about the supposed "47 Million Americans without health care". As you can see, a full 19% of people without health insurance make more than $75,000 a year. It has been reported that as many as 14 million of them are eligible for government coverage but haven't bothered to register. And then there is the fact that this number includes anyone who has been without insurance "anytime during the year"(see this). A good many of those people are simply changing jobs.

For this, we are going to elect a president who wants to implement a single payer, Canadian style debacle?

Because of events during World War II, this country established a system of health insurance that ties coverage to private employment. As such, many people lose coverage temporarily when they switch jobs. As the employment environment gets more fluid, more people lose coverage temporarily and the number of people rises. But you never hear that in the national discussion on health care.

As is often noted in the conservative press, health coverage is a rational economic choice for many. Younger more healthy people often forgo health insurance in favor of luxuries. I once had an exchange with a thirty something golf pro who was lamenting that his club didn't offer him health insurance and, as such, he didn't have any. I asked him if he thought that was irresponsible, given that if he were hit by a truck tomorrow, he could conceivably put his parents in the poor house. Between discussing his latest Caribbean vacation and taking calls on his cell phone, he responded that it was not his fault because health insurance is "too expensive". At the time I was paying $130 per month, probably about the same amount he was paying to chat with his various girlfriends on his mobile phone.

But he was right in one sense. It is too expensive. Because individual coverage isn't tax deductible and there is no national market, health insurance for individuals and the self employed is much more expensive than it needs to be. Republicans have been trying for years to make individual coverage tax deductible and allow coverage across state lines. Yet Democrats know that these are steps away from their objective to nationalize the system, so they continue to block such legislation. The result is that people like me pay much more for coverage than we might otherwise, and have for years.

Worse though is the general view in the US that someone else needs to be responsible for health insurance. When a young, healthy golf pro admits that he is too irresponsible to buy insurance, few people treat him as if he had just admitted that he drives without car insurance. Rather, they tend to offer sympathy.

Republican governors in Massachusetts and California have started setting up programs that force people to get coverage. The California program is misguided in my estimation, but at least it's a start. But the single payer solution being offered by all the Democrat presidential candidates is a prescription for disaster. Government run health care has failed everywhere it has been established. The lead story on the UK news every night is the latest government medical malpractice story (think Walter Reed). Thoughtful Europeans know that if the US goes to a public system, much of the health care innovation that we export will be be stifled.

In any case, we should demand that people tell the truth about how many people are chronically and legitimately uninsured. My guess is that it could be less than half of the "47 Million" number bandied about. If we mandate insurance, it would of course be zero (there are plenty of ways to ensure that the poor get private insurance - see the Romney program in Massachusetts). The effort on the part of the Democrat politicians and their friends in the press to nationalize health care is an effort to expand their power and influence, nothing more.

And we know how that works out. Think Federal Express vs. the Post Office.