Figures Don't Lie

Many years ago, my Uncle Wes was listening to a political commentary on the evening news. About halfway through the piece he got up, turned the TV off and told me: "Figures don't lie but liars sure can figure" This Blog is dedicated to setting things right about a few of the numbers tossed around in today's political discussions.

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Location: Bloomington, Minnesota, United States

How old am I? Well, for much of my career, I had a secretary. And, my best secretary could take shorthand.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

46 Million Americans Lack Health Insurance

Google that phrase and you will get over 2.5 million hits!

If someone repeats it to you at dinner or in a bar, insisting that "we must do something!" just do this. Say "You're right, we should provide help. For $20 apiece, we can insure ten million of them in the next two minutes. Would you be willing to join me?" as you place a $20 bill on the table.

Now point out that of the 46 million people under discussion:

  • 6.4 million are the Medicaid undercount. These are people who are on one of two government health insurance programs, Medicaid or S-CHIP, but mistakenly (intentionally or not) tell the Census taker that they are uninsured.
  • Another 4.3 million are eligible for free or heavily subsidized government health insurance (again, either Medicaid or SCHIP), but have not yet signed up. While these people are not pre-enrolled in a health insurance program and are therefore counted as uninsured, if they were to go to an emergency room (or a free clinic), they would be automatically enrolled in that program by the provider after receiving medical care.
Now pick up the two twenties and say, I can eliminate nine million more for another twenty! Want to have a go at it?

You eliminate that 9 million because they aren't U.S. citizens. They are (legal or illegal) immigrants. If you were working in Mexico, would you expect the Mexican people to provide health insurance for you? Would you want it? How about Canada? The wait time for heart bypass surgery in Toronto is only 48 days.

Economist and former senior White House economic advisor, Keith Hennessey, provides the breakdown of the 46 million at this blog post. He also has dandy graphics of total insured and the breakdown of uninsured.


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