Lies, Health Care, and Uninsure-able Statistics

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court, heard oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the single most talked-about provision contained in the health care “reform” act passed by a deeply divided Congress in 2010. Listening to the audio and reading the transcript was a textbook example of the “echo chamber effect,” which, in this instance, can be summed up as follows:

Repeat a Lie Often Enough and…

You, Too, Can Get a Supreme Court Justice To Repeat it For You…OVER and OVER

Although I’m sure the arguments contained other inaccuracies, what reached out and touched me was the worn-out statistic quantifying that class of persons referred to as “uninsured Americans'”. The Federal Government’s version of this number on March 27, 2012, as cited by the Solicitor General, was 40 million:

“But for more than 40 million Americans who do not have access to health insurance…” – General Verrilli, page 3, Lines 20-22

{Yes, take note of “the March 27, 2012 version”, it will come up again}

But anyone listening or reading need not have worried if they did not catch this number the first time. It was actually repeated 11 times throughout Tuesday’s arguments.

#2

It did so to deal with a very serious problem that results in 40 million people not being able to get insurance and therefore not access the health care environment.” – General Verrilli, page 22, Lines 19-22

#3

“The problem is that you have 40 million people who cannot get affordable insurance through the means the rest of us get affordable insurance.” – General Verrilli, page 38, Lines 19 – 22

Apparently, Justice Breyer did not believe Verrilli used the figure with anything like the necessary frequency:

#4

“…a disease is sweeping the United States, and 40 million people are susceptible, of whom 10 million will die; can’t the Federal Government say all 40 million get inoculation?” – Page 62, Lines 16-20

Note: I’m giving Justice Breyer a freebie in the quote above – he actually said it twice. But that was justa warm up. More from Breyer:

#5

“So here, we have a group of 40 million, and 57 percent of those people visit emergency care or other care…” – Page 62, Lines 21-23

#6

“…look at the 40 million people who are not insured and say which ones…” – Page 68, Lines 13-14

#7

“Can you do that any better than if we knew that 40 million people were suffering…” – Page 68, Lines 16-17

#8

“And that happens with a large number of people in this group of 40 million, none of whom can be picked out in advance.” Page 71, Lines 17-19.

#9

“The government set up CHIP, and there are 40 million people who don’t have the private insurance.” – Page 103, Lines 9-11

#10

“And in that world, of course, the decision by the 40 million not to buy the insurance affects that commerce and substantially so.” – Page 103, Lines 13-16

#11

“…but simply whether those decisions of that group of 40 million people substantially affect the interstate commerce…” – Page 103, Lines 19-21

And just in case everyone missed the figure the first eleven (twelve) times, the Solicitor General made sure he included the figure in his rebuttal:

#12

“The 40 million Americans who can’t get health insurance…” – Page 108, Lines 24-25

Ok. Question: Is it just me or does this strike anyone else to be something like…

HEY YOU, THE REST OF YOU SUPREME COURT JUSTICES…YA GOT THAT? THERE ARE…

40 MILLION UNINSURED AMERICANS

WOW – THIS IS A CRISIS!

(Did I just imagine that Justice Breyer whispered, “Hey – pssst! We can’t let this one go to waste!!!”?  Yeah, I guess I did.  He didn’t cross that line, but he did his best to “toe” that line as closely as he could.)

The lack of judicial inquiry and the amount of advocacy from the bench is nauseating, of course, and would be bad enough. But, during the lengthy debate over health care “reform”…

The “Number of Uninsured” Quoted By Advocates was…PROVABLY INACCURATE

We’ve Been There, Done That, Bought the T-shirt…

BUT, OK, Let’s Do It Again (It’s so easy, anyway):

The Unhealthy Accounting of Uninsured Americans, Carl Bialik, Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2009

Highlights – (see FOOTNOTES[1. The information highlighted in purple; Census Bureau as source, percentage uninsured which are illegal immigrants, lack of inclusion of Medicaid enrollees in statistics, and Federal statistics’ conflicts with States’ reports, are all evidence of fundamental flaws in the quoted numbers regarding ACCURACY. The question is: How many people in America do NOT have health insurance coverage? Again, the information in purple goes to the accuracy of the numbers reported. Some of the secondary level of information included does not pertain to accuracy, but goes to the characteristics of the people who do not have insurance. In addition to what is included in the bullet-points, note that many of the uninsured are 18-34 year olds. , along with this interesting information from Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2003:

8.2 million Americans without insurance cannot get insurance

Of course that number is a nearly a decade old, but we could double or triple it and still find ourselves at a drastically different place from 46 million.

] for explanation of purple highlighting)

  • Census Bureau estimates of the uninsured, calculated from self-reported data, is the primary source of information for the Congressional Budget Office and, thus, for Congress and for advocates of health care “reform”
  • Illegal immigrants are included in the figures (estimates average 13%)
  • A former Congressional Budget Office official (under Clinton during the “HillaryCare” era) stated that health care statistics and projections are the most uncertain of those the government produces about any issue
  • Some CBO analyses for the purposes of projecting numbers of uninsured do not account for people eligible for Medicaid, even when expansions in Medicaid eligibility are expected to occur
  • Some people eligible for health insurance don’t know it or, if they do know, simply do not want it
  • Affordability does not appear to be single greatest reason people remain uninsured: 43% of the uninsured have incomes greater than 2.5% of the poverty line
  • Census Bureau’s uninsured numbers are higher than reported by States, but they’re flawed, too
  • Census Bureau counts people who do not answer survey calls as uninsured (consider that in the era of cell phones, fewer landlines, when landlines are called)
  • Individuals who work in the field of generating projections note that “some guesswork is often involved”

All of the above information has been known, at least since 2009.  More recently, (i.e., a year and a half later):

“The Real Number of Uninsured Americans”, Jeffery H. Anderson, The Weekly Standard, December 29, 2010

A telling quote included from the Census Bureau…

Health insurance coverage is likely to be underreported on the Current Population Survey (CPS). While underreporting affects most, if not all, surveys, underreporting of health insurance coverage appears to be a larger problem in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) than in other national surveys that ask about insurance.”

In the remainder of his article, Mr. Anderson “does the math” for us, using data from the very same Census report paired with available survey data, to conclude that a more accurate estimate of the number of uninsured who are unhappy with their health care is . . . .

12 million (i.e., less than 5 percent of the citizenry).

At the same time the pundits cited above and others were attempting to clarify exactly how many people in this country can’t get health insurance even though they want it, the Obama administration was spouting widely-varying estimates with no disclosure of the source(s) of those figures.  For example, see . . .

Obama Cuts The Number of Uninsured People By One-Third“, Jacob Sullum, Reason, February 10, 2010

Fun title, no?

Anyway –

The President, according to a White House official, was stating “more than 30 million” to indicate the number of uninsured native born and naturalized citizens. No mention of any other flaws in the number (46 million) touted by advocates at that time, however.

And that’s interesting, because…

In May 2011, the President said in a speech at the American Medical Association:

“We are not a nation that accepts nearly 46 million uninsured men, women, and children…”

The President’s statement can be seen in the video from Fox Business, below (not embeddable, click to open in another tab and view)

*not playable here* CLICK to view in another tab

Earlier, I mentioned “the March 27, 2012 version”, noting this reference would be explained.

On March 27, 2012, before the Supreme Court, obviously, the Federal Government stated there are…

40 million uninsured

But in the briefs filed in the case (sometime between November and January), a HIGHER number than 40 million was stated:

Page 7:

“About 50 million people lacked health insurance in 2009.”

Sources cited:

U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009, Tbl. 8, at 23 (2010).

47 Million and Counting: Why the Health Care Marketplace Is Broken: Hearing Before the S. Comm. on Finance, 110th Cong., 2d Sess. 52 (2008) (Senate Hearing) (Prof. Mark A. Hall); Ed Neuschler, Policy Brief on Tax Credits for the Uninsured and Maternity Care 3(2004)

Questions:

HOW did we get to the point where we are deciding to radically change the relationship between government and citizen when the information upon which the whole subject is based is literally a moving target and changeable at will?

Couldn’t we mandate our government officials must purchase Statistics Insurance?

Can we deduct the premiums from their salaries?

Would that be considered a high risk policy?

Should they wait until they think they need it?

Can the policy, if a claim is submitted, be made payable to the national debt?

How much coverage would the officials need to get?

If China is not willing to sell U.S. officials a government-subsidized rate-controlled policy, what would those premiums be?

Would our officials be uninsurable?

Would the application for the policy look like the image below?

A song for Justice Breyer who fell in love with the Federal Government’s figure and for the easy job of exposing, again, how flawed the stats really are:

And another Buddy Holly hit – about when we’ll fall for this stuff:

[jbox color=”white” shadow=”3″ width=”600″ content_css=”font-size: 24px; color:#575757; font-variant: small-caps; letter-spacing:  3px;” icon=”http://grassrootsne.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/camera.ico”]Image Credit & Copyright Notice[/jbox]

“Health Care Statistics” T-shirt graphic by Shelli Dawdy. Republish with link.

“Rejected” image from Cecelia’s Christian Fiction Blog

[jbox color=”white” shadow=”3″ width=”600″ content_css=”font-size: 24px; color:#575757; font-variant: small-caps; letter-spacing: 3px;” icon=”http://grassrootsne.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/book.ico”]Footnotes, References & Citations[/jbox]

Comments

  1. Norlyn raisch says

    Nonsense!! Elvis fans are accurate 100% of the time, regardless to whom else they may or may not listen. Or should that be irregardless?

    • Shelli Dawdy says

      Looks I pushed someone’s Elvis button. I’m not sure I am in agreement. If someone listens to Elvis, but also listens to ____________ (fill in blank with whoever latest hip hop icon is), I believe that social sciencey research has revealed that accuracy degrades by at least five points.

      Speaking of nonsense, your query has now moved the conversation from the nebulous world of Holly and Presley statistics into a realm with much greater precision. Or not. Grammatical gurus seem to disagree about whether or not “irregardless” is actually a word, or, if so, if it is acceptable. See Webster’s. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irregardless

      Note, for the record, the only reason “irregardless” caught me is there was literally some debate over a politician’s use of the word recently, but the details escape. I believe it’s necessary to distance myself from conveying in anyway, whatsoever, that I have more than a passing understanding of grammatical rules. I wouldn’t want Linda to fall off her chair if she happens to read this. See, she proofreads my articles.

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