Who are ‘the uninsured?’

Today’s Washington Times editorial takes an eye-opening look into the Obama insinuation that America’s 45 million uninsured are middle-class families who simply can’t get health insurance unless Congress gives in to his proposed government takeover of health care.

Click here to read the editorial, or pick up a copy of the Times if you live in the metro D.C. area.  The Times writes, in part:

This leads us to ask: Who are the uninsured? In 2006, the Census Bureau used a Department of Labor survey to estimate that there were 46.6 million uninsured people — about 15.5 percent of the population.

Fourteen million of the 47 million are already eligible for government insurance, Medicaid, but have not signed up. (Pre-existing conditions do not exclude someone from joining Medicaid.) Those 14 million have not signed up because they do not want to pay the small monthly premium that Medicare charges. As a result, many who are eligible for Medicaid wait until they need care before they register. They are effectively insured at all times even when they are not formally enrolled in the program.

What about the uninsured who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid? Most are not in dire financial straits. After all, 27 million of the uninsured have personal incomes of more than $50,000.

True, there is a group of people who are borderline poor but not eligible for Medicaid, but the group is relatively small and many (if not most) of those people are illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, government surveys never ask respondents if they are legally in the United States.

If you exclude those who are essentially covered by Medicaid, nearly 70 percent of the remaining uninsured lack insurance for less than four months. Many of those temporarily uninsured are simply switching jobs and waiting for human resources departments to process their paperwork. In addition, two-thirds of the uninsured are between 18 and 34; these folks, on average, have few health problems and are uninsured by choice.

The truly uninsured are, thus, largely young people who can afford insurance but who make the decision to temporarily go without it as they move between jobs. This tends to be for very short periods of time.