Mike Rosen wrote an opinion piece in the Rocky Mountain News last week about how there is “No ‘crisis’ of uninsured”. Mr. Rosen attempts to point out that those advocating for universal health coverage are trying to manipulate the statistics. His reasoning: he says that when people say ‘right now there are 46 million people in this country without health insurance’ or ‘700,000 people in Colorado are uninsured’, they are purposely trying to be misleading to make it seem like a crisis when it isn’t.
He is trying to say that these numbers are snapshots and not the numbers reflective of the “permanently uninsured”. Yet, whenever I hear people say ‘right now there are 46 million people in this country without health insurance’, I take it to mean ‘right now there are 46 million people in this country without health insurance’. It really doesn’t matter how long some of the people included in this number have gone without health insurance (or will go without). The fact is that if something happened to any one of them, they would likely have to file bankruptcy.
He uses the example:
Forty-six million is the snapshot figure, the average number who have no insurance on a given day. To see how misleading this can be, consider this: At any time perhaps 50 million Americans have a head cold. And during the course of a year, probably 300 million Americans will have a cold at one time or another. This is hardly the same thing as saying that 300 million Americans have a permanent head cold.
Let’s take a real life use of a statistic similar to this (since I’ve never heard of a statistic about the number of people with colds). What if you were to read a study that found at least 65 million Americans have hypertension? Would you take this to mean that 65 million Americans have hypertension right now or permanently? Seriously? Would you get upset at the American Heart Association’s “ploy” of trying to manipulate the statistics? I wouldn’t, but maybe I’m just different.
Toward the end of the article, Mr. Rosen says:
Let’s look at the portion of the glass that’s full, not just the empty part. According to the Census Bureau, more than 247 million Americans had either private insurance or were enrolled in a government health program in 2005. That’s almost 85 percent of the population.
I think he is trying to mislead us there, because the 247 million number isn’t even a snapshot. It’s the number of people who ‘at some time during the year’ had health insurance “even if only for a day”. To quote Mr. Rosen, “this is a meaningless statistic”.