Demographic Ponzi

In “A Parliament of Whores”, P.J. O’Rourke famously calculated that if we had taken the money he Fed had spent on eradicating poverty since 1964, and simply given it, in cash, to people below the poverty line to raise them to the poverty line, we’d have at least legally eradicated poverty (you’ll note that trillions in spending over three generations have not managed that) and saved billions of dollars back when “billion” was still a very big number.

Which is no dumber than what we have been doing for the past 45 years.
About a year ago, my radio colleague Ed Morrissey and I interviewed a pair of experts on Minnesota’s heath insurance system, with an aim toward deflating the notion that Minnesota is bursting at the seams with uninsured people.  When you count Minnesotans who are not already eligible for some other kind of existing public or private health insurance, it turns out that around eight  percent of Minnesotans lack coverage.

Which is a problem, but one that can be dealt with without drastic, revolutionary, economy-changing measures.

“But”, I thought, “the rest of the US can’t possibly be doing as well as Minnesota is, right?”

Via Ed, Jazz Shaw at The ModVoice notes that no – but it’s s not nearly as far off as some would have you believe.

Of course, nobody believes it straight from conservative sources – but Shaw is taking his info from the Census Bureau:

Next, we need to go back to the Census Bureau report and turn to page 31 where we are informed that their total number includes the category of those who are listed as “non-citizens” (which are carefully broken out from naturalized citizens vs. native born citizens.) The non-citizen rate of uninsured individuals clocked in at 43.8%, or roughly 9.4 million non-Americans. Since these people are not here legally and not paying into the system, that portion of the crisis is better addressed in a debate on immigration issues, but taxpaying Americans don’t need to be on the hook for that segment of the total.

While the number continues to drop, it’s also worth noting that we’re not talking exclusively about the abject poor who can’t afford insurance. As this Business and Media report informs us, that same Census Bureau summary includes the following:

But according to the same Census report, there are 8.3 million uninsured people who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and 8.74 million who make more than $75,000 a year. That’s roughly 17 million people who ought to be able to “afford” health insurance because they make substantially more than the median household income of $46,326.

Once you do some fairly basic math, you come up with the same figure that the Kaiser Family Foundation arrived at.

The liberal Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number of uninsured Americans who don’t qualify for government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 8.2 million and 13.9 million.

As Ed notes, to buy each of these people private insurance would cost about 50 billion a year.

Since we’re talking a government program, let’s double it just to be safe.  100 billion dollars a year. Which is less than half of what Obama is talking about taking from the economy (which is itself almost certainly a hopelessly low estimate).

But the real story is this; according to the Census Bureau, the very problem that we’re supposedly threatening to dump our entire healthcare system over – the supposed 47 million uninsured Americans – is actually less than a third of that number, under 14 million.

7 thoughts on “Demographic Ponzi

  1. Great post Mitch, when talking about the uninsured in the United States it is helpful to break down who the uninsured really are to distinguish between those who (a) are eligible for existing programs but don’t sign up until they need to see the doctor, (b) those who can afford health insurance but choose not to and (c) those who can’t afford health insurance. The difference between (b) and (c) is a bit murkier when you’re talking about someone with preexisting conditions that makes it harder to buy an individual policy. My preference would be to create a risk pool (like an Association Health Plan) so that more of these people would be able to get health insurance before we just throw money at expanding coverage through the public system.

    One quibble (and this is to clear up what I think is a common misperception about the census numbers) with Jazz Shaw’s piece. The “non-citizens” that are listed in the US Census Bureau are NOT illegal aliens but immigrants who are here lawfully but have not (yet) become citizens. Illegal aliens AFAIK aren’t captured in the census numbers.

    Jazz Shaw is correct that (legal) immigrants are more likely to lack health insurance than citizens and that might be more of an issue for immigration reform. But that portion of reform IMO will not be about preventing people from entering the country illegally but more about ensuring that the people who are admitted legally are able to be as self-sufficient as possible.

  2. Do we actually allow people to come in as legal immigrants who will become public charges?
    The last time I was involved in this issue was two decades ago. I had to sign some papers that allowed the government to bill me if the immigrant, the foreign-born wife of a relative, ever went on the dole.

  3. Do we actually allow people to come in as legal immigrants who will become public charges?

    I’m guessing that since we don’t (yet) have either a national employer or an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, we don’t presume that just because you don’t have health insurance that automatically makes you a “public charge.”

    The last time I was involved in this issue was two decades ago. I had to sign some papers that allowed the government to bill me if the immigrant, the foreign-born wife of a relative, ever went on the dole.

    I’ve heard about that practice. I’m guessing then that foreign-born wife wouldn’t have had health insurance while she was in the United States but the government would have been able to go after you for her uncompensated health care expenses. If that’s the case for a lot of the uninsured legal immigrants, then that’s something that we need to take into account.

  4. The ten million illegals without insurance is probably not a bad estimate because it comes close to the estimated number of illegals in the US (I’ve heard 12-14 million is a reasonable guess at that number).
    The uninsured number in the US from the census bureau is not good. They admit as much in the source document. Insured status & other data are self-reported, and the Census Bureau admits that there is a problem with people over-reporting being uninsured for a year or more. Apparently the way the question was worded some people checked the ‘no insurance’ question if they or anyone in their household was uninsured for any period of time in the previous twelve months.
    The Left tries to take the 46 million number off the table. In their view it exists only to further the argument for socialized medicine. Any other use of the census data is illegitimate. They’ve tried to do the same thing with the life expectancy & infant mortality numbers.

  5. Ten million truly uninsured is the number I told Peevee weeks ago, not 47 million.

    Peev, is your head still buried..?

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