Like a bunch of carnival barkers, the advocates of â€śsingle-payerâ€? health care are loudly touting the Census Bureauâ€™s latest claims about the uninsured. So, I guess itâ€™s once again time to point out that this statistic has very littleÂ meaning in the larger context of health care reform.
First, it isnâ€™t by any means clear that the figures released yesterday are accurate. In March, the Census Bureau had to revise its 2004 and 2005 figures downward because it had exaggerated the number of uninsured Americans. A similar revision will no doubt be required to fix yesterdayâ€™s stats.
Moreover, as I have pointed out here, the total number of uninsured reported by the Census Bureau significantly overstates the number of chronically uninsured. The actual number of year-round uninsured is about half of the 47 million figure reported yesterday.
Also, as I have pointed out here, lack of insurance doesnâ€™t mean lack of care. EMTALA guarantees that all patients who seekÂ care in Americaâ€™s ERs will be treated.Â And, the erroneous claims of the single-payer crowd notwithstanding, free hospital and primary careÂ are also widely available.
But the real problem with focusing so heavily on the plight of the uninsured is that it is a symptom. The actual disease is a morass of perverse incentives created by the very government that single-payer advocates would put in charge of our entire health care system.
If covering â€śthe uninsuredâ€? is the primary focus of our attempts at health care reform, the real disease will continue to metastasize.