You know what they say about using statistics in arguments: There are lies, damn lies and statistics. And from my perspective it seems that most of the health care debate has been mired in the first two of these, and little in the third.
I thought I'd take a little time today and do some research. I'll present below my findings. But first a disclaimer. For every statistic I've looked up, I've found multiple sources with varying numbers. The bottom line, in my opinion, is that nobody knows the real numbers for these statistics. Most of them are guesses. Some are educated guesses. Some might be pretty close. But nobody knows.
Here are the numbers cited for Americans without health insurance:
47 million: Americans without health insurance *
7 million: Illegal immigrants without Health Insurance
9 million: Americans on medicaid which are counted as "not having health insurance" but have health care
3.5 million: Eligible for medicaid but not enrolled
20 million: Choose not to be insured (young & healthy)
7.5 million: uninsured who cannot afford insurance or who are in and out of insurance due to changing jobs.
* The 47 million Americans include illegal immigrants who aren't really "Americans," but who are counted because most of the proposals before congress would cover them.
Let's break down those numbers even more:
There are an estimated 20 million illegal aliens in the United States. That number is a 2000 estimate. The number is probably much higher now, and will continue to rise. Most Americans are opposed to covering illegals. Most congressional democrats and current presidents strongly favor covering illegal immigrants. If we don't cover them, does it matter whether they are in the stats or not? If we do cover them, the cost estimates for KopechneCare (another suggestion for the name of the program) are grossly underestimated.
There are also approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated at any given time. That number is also rising. It is unclear whether or not they are counted in the uninsured statistics. Based on how they appear to be calculating those numbers, I'm guessing they are counted, but whether or not they are covered is unlikely to have an effect on the care the receive.
The number of people eligible for medicaid who are not currently enrolled is an estimate, also. A guess, at best. I suspect that number may be significantly higher. Many of these people are homeless and addicted to drugs or alcohol or have serious mental illness. Most of them would also be eligible for a government run health care program, but would unlikely apply for it and unlikely seek health care if they had it. A number of websites estimate the homeless population to be 3.5 million, but one source indicated that number, which comes from federal estimates, are the number of people that could be homeless at any time during a given year. In other words, if you are homeless one or two nights, you're counted. These people are hard to count, but given this estimate, you would expect the number of people who are eligible for medicaid who are not currently enrolled is probably higher than the statistic.
Of those who "choose" not to be insured, most of that number is likely to be able to afford insurance. These are generally young and healthy people who would rather spend a couple of hundred bucks a month on something else. If KopechneCare were passed, and if people still had the option to purchase the care, it is unlikely these people would be persuaded. They'd probably still be uninsured. If they did not have the option, this group is the most likely to sue the Federal Government on the grounds that the government doesn't have the constitutional right to force them to buy something they don't want and don't need.
There are a handful of other folks who don't fit into any of these categories. The one that comes most readily to mind is those who choose not to buy health insurance for religious reasons. I believe HR3200 allows these people to opt out, and it is likely that any other proposal that gets very far in Congress will do the same. Nonetheless, these people are counted among the uninsured and KopechneCare will not affect them. They will remain uncovered. Their numbers may be less than a couple of million, but I don't really know if there is any way to know for sure how many of them there are. It may, in fact, rise with government involvement. People who might be inclined to buy private insurance may decide that if the government is going to get involved and keep information and statistics on them, they will opt out and cite religious reasons when the reasons have more to do with politics and paranoia than religion.
The bottom line is, we don't have a health care crisis. We don't have a health insurance crisis. The nation isn't going to fall apart if we don't pass KopechneCare this year, but it may fall apart if we pass a plan to cover a smattering of people and it costs the nation trillions and trillions of dollars that we don't have.