Statement Of Greg Scandlen Concerning Families USA Report

Published April 21, 2009

On “Americans at Risk: One in Three Uninsured”

Families USA has released another of its hysterical reports aimed at stampeding policymakers into enacting ill-founded solutions to fictional problems.

In this case Families USA trumpets, “One in three Americans lack health insurance.” Yikes! One in three? People must be dying in the streets. How come I haven’t noticed them?

Reading the study, it turns out that Families USA arrived at these numbers by manipulating data from a bunch of different surveys and extrapolating them over a two-year period. Thus its number includes everyone who has changed jobs in the past two years. They are counted as having “lost” their health insurance when they went from one job to another, even though the new job may have provided coverage.

The number also includes all the people who are eligible for a public program but haven’t bothered to sign up, and all the kids who graduated from college and didn’t immediately buy health insurance, and all the new immigrants, legal or not, who aren’t eligible for public programs anyway.

People lacking health insurance coverage is a problem in this country, but it is a steady problem that is not growing noticeably worse. The chart below tracks the percentage of the under-65 population that was insured and uninsured from 1994 through 2007. The percentage of uninsured has ranged between 15 percent and 17 percent every year, without a big surge one way or the other. As trends go, it could hardly be flatter.

Nonelderly insured and uninsured, 1994-2007

Families USA Uninsured

SOURCE: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Issue Brief #321, September, 2008

Now, it’s very likely the percentage of uninsured has grown during the current recession, as it usually does during economic downturns. Once we get out of the recession, it will drop down again.

That observation certainly does not excuse inaction on expanding access to coverage. There is a great deal that can and should be done to make insurance coverage more accessible and affordable. But good solutions are not developed in times of panic. Families USA should take a deep breath and calm down a bit.

Greg Scandlen ([email protected]choices.org) is director of Consumers for Health Care Choices at The Heartland Institute.