The National Catholic Review
ght now, the data from the U.S. Census Bureau are about to become obsolete; a new report is expected at the end of this month. It will provide information for 2008. What we have currently is information for 2007, and it’s the best we have. I haven’t read the entire report, but I have looked at a few pertinent pages. The Report is called “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States—2007.”  Number of Uninsured  It shows that in 2007, 45.657 million people in the U.S. were uninsured; rounded off, 46 million. Soon we will be able to see whether the number of uninsured has increased as a result of the recession. Which is likely.  Sometimes that 46 million has been used to refer to uninsured “Americans,” however. That is not accurate if by “Americans” you mean “citizens,” not just the people who live here. To arrive at the number of “American citizens” without health insurance, you must subtract 9.737 million people who are “not citizens” (nearly 10 million). There are 35.92 million citizens, rounded off, 36 million.  It matters to many that taxpayer money not be used for anyone other than citizens, which is what supposedly underlies this preoccupation with accuracy. But the critics should admit that no proposed bill in Congress includes non-citizens.  Sometimes critics of the reform have taken their own liberties with the Census data, like calling people in the “not citizens” category “illegal aliens.” That’s absurd. Plenty of people who are not citizens live in this country legally.  Profile of Uninsured In the U.S., most uninsured people live in the South; they live in households with less than $50,000 a year in income; 26.8 million of them worked during 2007; 21 million of those worked full-time.  Not all uninsured people are poor, or old, or under age 18. The two largest groups are those aged 25 to 34 and those aged 45 to 64. Some uninsured people live in households with higher than average income, not just above $50,000, but above $75,000.  Why is that? I don’t know that the Census explains why. But that statistic alone doesn’t tell us much—like: how many people live in households with above average income; how many wage earners live in the household; how many dependents ; how much debt the household owes. It is not clear without more information whether such persons could afford health insurance or not. Probably some of the uninsured are healthy, young, highly paid workers who could afford insurance, but who prefer not to pay for it and to pocket the extra earnings instead. They probably pay for care if and when they need it. That practice is a legal option in many states. But that would change with House reform bill HR 3200, which requires everyone to purchase health insurance; one of the goals is universal coverage.

Right now, the data from the U.S. Census Bureau are about to become obsolete; a new report is expected at the end of this month. It will provide information for 2008. What we have currently is information for 2007, and it’s the best we have. I haven’t read the entire report, but I have looked at a few pertinent pages. The Report is called “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States—2007.” You can find it online.

Number of Uninsured 

It shows that in 2007, 45.657 million people in the U.S. were uninsured; rounded off, 46 million. Soon we will be able to see whether the number of uninsured has increased as a result of the recession. Which is likely. 

Sometimes that 46 million has been used to refer to uninsured “Americans,” however. That is not accurate if by “Americans” you mean “citizens,” not just the people who live here. To arrive at the number of “American citizens” without health insurance, you must subtract 9.737 million people who are “not citizens” (nearly 10 million). There are 35.92 million citizens, rounded off, 36 million. 

It matters to many that taxpayer money not be used for anyone other than citizens, which is what supposedly underlies this preoccupation with accuracy. But the critics ought to know that there is no proposed health reform bill in Congress that includes non-citizens. None.

Sometimes critics of the reform have taken their own liberties with the Census data, like calling people in the “not citizens” category “illegal aliens.” That’s absurd. Plenty of people who are not citizens live in this country legally. 

Profile of Uninsured

In the U.S., most uninsured people live in the South; they live in households with less than $50,000 a year in income; 26.8 million of them worked during 2007; 21 million of those worked full-time. 

Not all uninsured people are poor, or old, or under age 18. The two largest groups are those aged 25 to 34 and those aged 45 to 64. Some uninsured people live in households with higher than average income, not just above $50,000, but above $75,000. 

Why is that? Perhaps the Census explains why, but I didn't find the explanation there. What is obvious though, if you think about it, is that that statistic alone—a household income of $75,000 or more—doesn’t reveal much. It doesn't tell you how many people live in those households; or how many wage earners live there; or how many dependents; or how much debt the household owes. Without more information it isn't clear whether such persons could afford health insurance. It is probable, however, that some of the uninsured are healthy, young, highly paid workers who could afford insurance, but  prefer not to pay for it and to pocket the extra earnings instead. They could just pay for care if and when they need it. That practice is a legal option in many states. That would change, by the way, with House reform bill HR 3200, which requires everyone to purchase health insurance; one of the goals of the reform is universal coverage.

Comments

Anonymous | 8/21/2009 - 2:01am
Gabriela,
On your footnote, is it your believe that it was good that your daughter was treated at no cost?  Nothing comes free.  Do you realize that the Canadian people paid for your daughter's treatment?  Since the Canadian health budget is not infinite, your daughter's treatment took away from some one else, probably from a friend of a friend in Canada who broke his finger and has to wait until early next year for treatment while it swells and hurts.
I do not know why this is a logical article or why people believe it is Christian for us to want government to be compassionate?  This 60s belief has no basis in fact.  Government has no feelings; it is in the long run motivated by politics.  Corporations have no feelings; it is in the long run motivated by profits.  This is like wanting your car to care about your safety on the road.  It is an illusion?  Where in the Gospels did Jesus exhort Herod or Pilate to solve the problems of the poor?
Charity comes from us, not from the government.  Asking the government to do this, which will not work, diminishes our ability to have charity.  In Germany, church donations are part of the taxes paid and one just indicates what Church it should go to.  Is that the voluntary giving we want to have?  Is that what Jesus meant?  If so, then explain to me why the Democrats that push health care and carry the supposed mantle of compassion have, on the average, contribute less than half of what the average heartless Republican does?
Was it: when I was hungry, did you feed me?  When I was naked did you clothe me?  Or when I was hungry did you get the government to feed me?
Anonymous | 8/21/2009 - 12:21am
     Is one of the goals of health care reform universal health insurance coverage or is it 100% access to what is needed to diagnose and treat illness or injury?  So long as insurance companies collect premiums but then dictate to those who pay them what type of doctors they may visit and what type of treatments they should get, these companies are denying the insured access.  In the case of the uninsured, a lack of money prevents access.
 
     Health care reform should focus first on the need and then determine how best to meet that need.  The money to pay for it should come out of a pot funded by an affordable percentage of each working person's income.  If it were done this way, then everyone would realize that health insurance is a waste of their money.
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 11:39pm
Isn't "insured", "uninsured" a little bit simplistic - like, say, owning or not owning an an automobile would be. Some people own Rolls Royces, many own clunkers, some own inoperable automobiles. All insurance isn't the same and most of "have health insurance" doesn't mean one is covered for many medical problems that may arise. Not only that, but since the insurance business is a business, they are wholly oriented into making a profit at all costs and at all sacrifice- to the patient. Why else would most private insurance companies cover abortion? Because if a woman aborts, it costs them very little compared to if a child is born. Why arn't the Catholic Bishops looking at this factor a lot harder instead of worrying about Federally funded abortions which would have limits and rules and protocols which the private insurance companies don't have! Federally funded access that offered abortion would also offer birth services and after birth care that private insurance companies shudder to consider. Private insurance as a business has one goal - to make money.
 Medical care is a ministry, not a business. Albert Schweitzer didn't spend his life in the Congo to make a fortune; the many doctors of the past who sacrificed their lives to their patients and to grow medicine into the art that it is didn't do this so that  profiteers could suck out the heart of medicine for their bottom line. Who has insurance is not the question and it is not the answer. That all can get decent medical care as a basic right is both!
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 3:15pm
Karen,
Very logical article. There are 2 more categories of people: legal immigrants awaiting citizenship and legal seasonal workers. Perhaps the number is not high, but what happens with these people? Will they be covered? A footnote to this discussion. While on vacation some years ago in Canada my daughter broke a collar bone. We rushed her to the local hospital and they took care of her at no cost.
Gabriel Marcella