By Rep. Bud Nornes
Proposals for government-run health care plans have made headlines on both the federal and state levels. It’s difficult to fully comprehend how sweeping the proposed changes are and understand the effects those changes will have on our personal health care.
One thing we often hear about is how we have a glut of uninsured citizens. Roughly 92 percent of Minnesota’s population is insured, according to the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. By comparison, Massachusetts has about 97-percent coverage in its “universal” government-run system.
President Obama recently spoke about how 46 million Americans don’t have health insurance coverage. I recently obtained a categorical breakdown of those 46 million uninsured Americans. We really should take a hard look at this claim about the number of Americans who allegedly don’t get the care they need before making critical decisions.
Below is a rather interesting summary, from reports at http://powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/08/024280.php and http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/FAQ.htm.
• 6.5 MILLION PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T ANSWER THE DOORBELL: This group is called the "Medicaid Undercount" from the last census. According to informed sources, this group actually is enrolled in Medicaid or S-CHIP but didn't tell the census taker.
Which leaves 39.5 million people.
• 10 MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE WEALTHY AND SELF-INSURE: This group will often purchase "catastrophic coverage" for major illnesses or injuries, but pay for regular coverage out of their pockets.
Which leaves 29.5 million people.
• 10 MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CITIZENS: Two years ago, opponents of immigration reform said it would be impossible to detect and deport 22 million illegal aliens. The most conservative estimates being voiced in this year's debate is that there are about 10 million illegal aliens who are guaranteed to receive emergency care under federal law.
Which leaves 19.5 million people.
• 4.5 MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE ELIGIBLE, BUT DON'T ENROLL: It is estimated that 4.5 million people are eligible for Medicaid or S-CHIP but have not enrolled. If they need care, the hospital or clinic generally enrolls them. In other words, they do not go bankrupt or without treatment. Overhauling our healthcare system to provide insurance to people who are already eligible for government assistance but have failed to enroll seems ill-advised.
Which leaves 15 million people.
• 5 MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE “GRASSHOPPERS”: About 5 million more are childless and working adults under the age of 35 who are U.S. citizens and do not qualify for free programs. They rely on auto insurance for collisions. They rely on workers’ compensation for job-related injuries. Instead of buying insurance, they put their money into consumer purchases or savings toward houses.
Which leaves 10 million people.
• 8 MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE CHEMICALLY DEPENDENT: There are 9 million people who are heavy users of illicit drugs other than marijuana and 17 million people who have a heavy reliance on alcohol. There is some overlap between those groups. But assume that over a third of drug addicts and heavy alcoholics are not signed up for health coverage beyond the federal guarantee of emergency care. If they need care, the hospital or clinic generally enrolls them. In other words, they do not (as Obama claims) go bankrupt or without treatment.
• This leaves about two million uninsured American citizens who are not covered by or are eligible for private or government insurance, and who do not self-insure or voluntarily opt to spend their income on items other than health insurance. By federal law, these people have access to emergency care. Auto insurance may cover costs of collision injuries. Workers’ compensation may cover work-related injuries.
The question we must answer is whether it is appropriate to threaten nearly one-fifth of our economy to cover these two million people.
Nornes represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and can be reached at (800) 336-8017 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.