Is The Number Of People Without Health Insurance A Crisis?

Having been around when GW Bush was President, and even immediately after the election of Obama, I clearly remember that the greatest crisis facing the country was the number of people without health insurance.  Or at least that was the official line.  There definitely was a constant drumbeat of reports from the great and the good, government and non-government advocacy groups, citing the number of people without health insurance and calling the situation a crisis.

As a couple of examples, consider this study from the University of Missouri's Center for Full Employment and Price Stability from 2007, title: An Introduction to the Health Care Crisis in America.  Or, for the official government version at the time immediately after Obama was elected and before Obamacare was passed, consider the report from the Institute of Medicine from February 2009 titled America's Uninsured Crisis: Consequences for Health and Health Care.  To help you remember the rhetoric of the time, here is the intro to that IOM study:

The growing number of uninsured Americans--totaling 45.7 million as of 2007--is taking a toll on the nation's health. One in five adults under age 65 and nearly one in ten children are uninsured. Uninsured individuals experience much more risk to their health than insured individuals. In its 2009 report America's Uninsured Crisis: Consequences for Health and Health Care, the Institute of Medicine points to a chasm between the health care needs of people without health insurance and access to effective health care services. This gap results in needless illness, suffering, and even death.

Well, that's rather over the top naked advocacy for government expansion from an organization supposed to be neutral policy advisers.  Of course the whole notion that lack of health insurance results in worse health outcomes has since been more or less completely debunked by, among other things, a large random study out of Oregon.  The IOM 2009 study didn't have those data or any other, but they don't let that kind of thing get in the way when they can utter phrases like "needless illness, suffering, and even death."

But anyway, here we are several years later and just short of four years since President Obama signed Obamacare into law, and you don't see much any more about the "crisis of the uninsured."  Well, the whole idea of Obamacare was to get everybody insured, so, you might be thinking, undoubtedly that must be what has happened.  Think again.

So let's just go and look up the latest government figures for the number of Americans without health insurance.  Well, try to do that and you'll find out that the government isn't putting out any figures on that just now.  Are you suspicious yet?

However, HHS Secretary Sibelius gave a press conference on Tuesday, and she talked about the number of uninsured.  Here's a report on the press conference at the Health Exchange web site.  Where did she get her numbers?  From a poll done by Gallup, and reported in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index on Monday.  Yes, the number of uninsured was the greatest crisis facing America, and we enacted a government takeover of a sixth of the economy to fix it, and the government now can't be bothered to collect data as to whether the "crisis" is being solved or not.

According to Secretary Sibelius in the press conference, based on Gallup data, the percentage of uninsured has declined to 15.9% of the population in early 2014, down from 17.1% in the last quarter of 2013.  Sibelius credits the Affordable Care Act: "That didn't just happen on its own."  This was of course spun as a big achievement.  ABC News reported it as "Health Law Cited as US Uninsured Rate Drops."

It doesn't sound like much of a change to begin with.  And can we please go back and look up where the number of uninsured stood back when GW Bush was President and this was the greatest crisis facing the country?  Turns out that the percentage of uninsured was below where it is today for all eight years of the Bush presidency. Here are the official data from the Census Bureau.  No, I can't explain why the official Census Bureau data ends in 2009.  But the percentage of uninsured Americans according to these data ranges from 14.1% in 2001 to 15.4% in 2008.

Now maybe, although I haven't heard them say it, the official administration view is that it doesn't matter any more whether you have insurance, because after all now we have guaranteed issue and you can buy the insurance after you get sick.  If you think about that one, you'll realize that they really can't put it quite that way without admitting that the whole thing can't work.  Instead they are out on their ridiculous fraudulent promotion campaign to try to trick young people into signing up and overpaying.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post yesterday gives what is, from an administration supporter, a rather balanced picture of where Obamacare is today.   Milbank notes that the administration has said that it needed about 7 million sign ups by the end of March, of which about 40% or 2.7 million would have to be young adults in the 18-34 age range.  According to the recent announcements, the number of the young adult sign ups is 1.08 million.  That's not too close.  Milbank's take is that the "millennials have abandoned Obama."  In terms of how they vote, that remains to be seen.  But the idea that you could just order people to buy a way overpriced product and they would do it because they like you -- that was never going to happen.