Sunday, August 23, 2009

The New York Times and "The Uninsured"

The New York Times editorial this morning is on the uninsured in America. The Times is, of course, standing with Team Obama in the supposition that the masses of uninsured in America deserve ObamaCare. There are some problems, as I see it, in their analysis.

The Times breaks the uninsured out into groups, admitting that some of the groups overlap a bit:
The Working Poor, The Better Off, Young Adults, Already Eligible, The Underinsured, and Non-Citizens.

The number of uninsured is of great debate. Team Obama sticks with 47 or 48 million. Others put it much lower. And do you include illegals in the number? Why include people that choose to be uninsured? There are those who are eligible for Medicaid but never enroll for whatever reasons. The arguments on the numbers have all been made and remain inconclusive.

The Times frets that lack of insurance, for whatever reason, is harmful to the health of those uninsured.

In many cases, those that choose not to buy insurance even though they could pay for it, this is simply their choice - the gamble they've opted to take. Consider the young, entry level corporate worker making a nice salary whose employer offers kick-ass coverage through payroll deductible premiums. It's reasonably priced. But our young corporate hot shot has just purchased his first home in the suburbs and a new luxury automobile. He'd rather save that $300 a month, take his chances, and get that car paid off first.

We're really going to FORCE him to buy insurance? "Yes, we can!"

The Times looks at "The Working Poor." They cite Kaiser Foundation numbers of 30 million people who earn less than twice the poverty level, "or about $44,000 for a family of four." These people can't afford to buy private health insurance. NYT says "they surely deserve a helping hand." So why not insurance savings accounts? Or tax breaks?

The next group is "The Better Off" - those 9 million uninsured people who "come from households with incomes of $75,000 or more." The problem with them, according to NYT, is that many of them have "low-wage roommates or extended families living together." Hunh? Still, insurance savings plans and tax breaks could help them, too.

Within this group, NYT contends that in families that earn $88,000 for a family of four, they could probably buy insurance but choose not to, well they "ought to be compelled to join the system to lessen the possibility that a serious accident or illness might turn them into charity cases and to help subsidize the coverage of poorer and sicker Americans."

"Ought to be compelled"? Again, we're going to FORCE an American to buy insurance? To buy a commodity he doesn't necessarily want?

Their next group is the "Young Adults" which might also include our young corporate worker I mentioned above. NYT suggests that these folks "wold be helped by reform bills that would provide subsidized coverage for the poor and an exchange" where they could shop for cheaper plans.

Yes, cheaper plans like that old public option. That's the same one that's going to put their corporate plan out of business because they can't compete with the government plan. That's the one that is going to have to ration care to make ends meet. That one.

Their next group is the "Already Eligible" - mostly children who are eligible under SCHIP or Medicaid but don't enroll "because they do not know they are eligible or are intimidated by the application process."

Stop. We're going to overhaul the entire American health care system as it now exists because these people don't know they can get Medicaid or are scared to fill out the forms? Is this like throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Wouldn't it be ever so much easier to just help them get signed up and move on?

Finally we have "The Underinsured" who had policies with inadequate coverage or high deductibles, and we have "Non-Citizens." The Times says "none of the pending bills would cover" illegals, or non-citizens. Well, maybe and maybe not. Remember, Representative Dean Heller tried to introduce a measure that would ensure immigration status, but it was voted down. We'll have no way of knowing if illegals are covered or not.

All in all, the NYT assessment remains weak to me. The better answer, the more cost-effective answer, and the one that would help the most Americans would be to set up insurance savings plans, set up some tax incentives for purchasing plans, and work on tort reform. Fear of a malpractice suit drives more unnecessary tests and jacks up the cost of medical care far more than anything else in the medical field. There's no real way to work on health care reform without tort reform. That's like failing to turn on the light when you walk into a dark room.

It's ignoring the obvious.

(More at Memeorandum)

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