POLICY: Now they are saying that there are fewer uninsured?

As if this one couldn’t be seen coming a mile off.

When you have nothing to say about an issue, change the numbers. In the 1980s the Thatcher government in Britain reduced the number of unemployed at a stroke by changing the way they counted them. If you were not eligible to collect benefit because, say, your husband or wife earned too much, then — Hey Presto! — you weren’t unemployed any more, even if you’d been laid off and couldn’t find a new job. Now we hear that the Administration is saying that the CPS apparently overcounts the number of uninsured.
And this is from the clowns who brought us guarantees that WMDs were in Iraq and that the invasion of said nation would be paid for by the oil revenue, as our soldiers would be greeted with sweets and flowers. And we should trust them over decades of decent research by the census bureau why?

Oh, and Thatcher changed the counting to try to stop the unemployment number going over the political sensitive 3 million number.  But for all her efforts it went over that number under the new counting system within a few months anyway.  And anyone who doesn’t think we’ve got a crisis going on in uninsurance here either has never tried to buy health insurance in the individual market, or just doesn’t get out enough.

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  1. Prioritizing is one thing, rendering people disposable is another. When politicians reject a basic support measure because “people might come out of the woodwork”, they are admitting that a number of people out there don’t have a basic means of support.
    /But who is rich?/
    Red herring. Why are we worrying about who gets labelled as rich when the issue is who has no access to basic means of support?
    //But I do realize that government has a responsibility to its citizens.//
    I also give you that these problems don’t necessarily have to be addressed by federal government. And it might be local or State govt., with some sort of coordination of effort to prevent major population shifts that would leave more generous places bearing an unfair burden of the poor.
    This morning I saw an interview with the United Way of Silicon Valley. The director presented a lot of interesting ways to address poverty – focusing on training, etc. Then it turned out that the United Way was going to focus its efforts on immigrants. Doesn’t anyone realize that highly skilled non-employed citizens are just as poor and in need of help as people who fit into some convenient group like “immigrants”? Just because you have been trained for a job doesn’t mean employers will chose you. Training may in fact work against you if you are “overqualified”.
    //the tax revenue can help to pay for an expansion of Medicaid//
    That’s an interesting idea. What are the current qualifications for Medicaid. I ask because a number of people have asserted that I’m eligible for “Medical”. They are wrong. Medical is for families, especially mothers and children, and, interestingly, immigrants under political asylum programs. Single people who are poor aren’t covered (those pesky single people must have not shown up in the statistics of the poor, lol). It seems to me Medicaid might have its own qualifications in addition to poverty.

  2. Numbers don’t communicate the hardships (housing, food, healthcare, jobs) many people go through. However, all politics, and civilization in general, is about prioritizing available resources. Yeah, it sucks that some “valuable” program gets cut in favor of another “valuable” program.
    Its very easy to argue class bias (rich v poor). But who is rich? What number do you use to determine rich? Forget the obvious, actors, policiticians, CEOs. I am fearful of these ambigous class bias arguments because they don’t seek to resolve issues on the merits of the need but simply use strategies the entertainment business has been using for centuries to stay successful…give the public a villain to hate. The problem is it keeps the public dumb. It does not require a civilized society to engage in a thoughtful debate about what is important. It simply degrades into a WWE match on cable (pay-per-view so the poor can’t watch it).
    You did touch on one subject I have wondered government (and insurers) have ignored. Now remember, I am not a fan of expanding government programs. But I do realize that government has a responsibility to its citizens. If employers pay a tax for unemployement benefits they pay a tax for providing health benefits during the period that unemployment benefits are provided. It should not be premium credits for COBRA or other market available insurance (too expensive, and probably a better benefit than what is offered to active employees). But the tax revenue can help to pay for an expansion of Medicaid, or Medicaid-like program. It is short-term, but it does address the problem many people face when they unexpectedly lose their job. They are provided with an income stream (albeit minimal) but they lose the typically highly subsidized cost for health care. What do you guys think?

  3. Some thoughts on govt. cooking the books – all non-expert and/or anecdotal.
    I have an friend who is a professional economist, and he has tried to explain how the government tries to hide inflation. All I remember is it has something about manipulating the basket of goods that prices are based on, and also particularly the way efficiencies created by technology are factored in as production.
    I’m particularly suspicious of government statistics that come from the Dept. of Labor. Let’s say academics are trying to project health coverage from employment statistics. The government wants unemployment statistics to be as low as possible. This raises questions for me about how the books might be cooked.
    Once a person reaches their limit of unemployment, how do they remain countable as among the unemployed? As far as I can see, the best case scenario is that the Dept. of Labor has some standard variable they use for the uncountable. I also wonder if people who get short term work through temp agencies are counted among the “employed”. If a temp agency offers a health plan treated as if all their employees have access to insurance? I once worked for a temp agency that offered a plan that would have taken most of my salary on a week-to-week basis: if someone is working from week-to-week, and their job can be cut off at any time, are they really going to put most of their salary into an over-priced health plan? Nope, they are going to save their money for the weeks and months when they don’t have work. This is the same decision that people have to make about COBRA, by the way: is it more prudent to buy health insurance you might not need or save enough to support yourself and your family during a very long job hunt? And even when we get beyond the ambiguities of temps, contractors, part-timers, dubiously self-employed people, there are probably other ways of selecting the questions or outright doctoring the numbers.
    I’m actually disturbed by the idea of using statistics at all as the measure of when certain problems become important. When questions such as health, housing, food, etc. are involved, then the real question is whether people are expendable are not. People who found arguments about basic support or access to medical care on an acceptible statistic of “unmet need” (or the politically craftied “denial of entitlement”) are saying that anyone who falls into the unmet need category is expendable. If follows that the poor are more expendable than the rich. Perhaps the stampede to identify with special classes (including the class of depressed people that the pharma ads have been targeting) is simply a symptom of the knowledge that a person is expendable if they aren’t specifically privileged? Think about all that advice to “network” (and attirbuting problems to failure to make friends): isn’t that just a way of enforcing class since people might be expendable if they don’t form (deferential?) relationships with those who have access to resources? It’s really sad if the only way a civilization can maintain productivity is to keep up an ongoing threat of expendability.

  4. I totally agree, gadfly. I don’t believe everything single thing I read. The healthy skeptism that is your infer cuts both ways…when the numbers agree with your point of view and when they don’t. The original posting seems to only show skeptism when the number don’t agree with a point of view. That viewpoint expressed was based mostly on personal experience.
    Again, I am not denying that there is a problem with uninsured in America. I just believe it is a little hypocritical to become a “learned skeptic” only when number disagree with your viewpoint. Throwing the analogy of WMD only reveals that the opinion expressed is mostly personal bias (which is fine) but not factual.

  5. JC – don’t be so quick to believe academics. You might want to ask if the academic work is largely based on analysis of government statistics. Academic studies tend to fall downstream of the “spadework”.

  6. I don’t think anyone is saying there isn’t a problem with the growing number of uninsureds. But simply accepting a number that agrees with your point of view and ignoring everything else is no different that the WMD issue you point out.
    The Census bureau puts out a number that shows a whopping 45 million uninsured and everyone accepts it as true!? C’mon that’s little naive, you sound like Colin Powell at the UN. Flaws in the reporting have been documented before (the question does not seek to find how long someone has been uninsured). In fact, another Census report (Survey of Income and Program Participation) shows a significantly lower number.
    Interepreting information with a political bias (either party) is wrong. I read the initial report by the Actuarial Research Group and the LA Times story on the subject. There seemed to be academic consensus that the numbers are greatly overstated. Your blunt editorial indicates your political feelings more than it does factual information. I understand that if the number of uninsured is reported at 20m, the issue of addressing adequate health care coverage falls off the political landscape because politicians will move onto something else. The problem still needs to be addressed, that’s an issue that has more to do with political will and than the administration cooking the numbers.

  7. What about the number of **underinsured**? Does then census bureau or the Bush administration have anything to say about that?

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