Some Required Reading for Spencer Bachus

At Congressman Spencer Bachus’ town hall meeting back in August, he based almost all of his opposition to health care reform on the Republican talking points that the “uninsured” really weren’t uninsured or chose to be uninsured or — worst of all — were dirty illegals only here for a welfare handout.

That last got plenty of applause from the 99% of the audience willing to ignore the reality that many US businesses thrive on undocumented workers. Not to mention the reality that undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible for welfare, and won’t be eligible for federal assistance in purchasing health insurance.  And now, apparently, won’t even be able to buy private health insurance with their own money.

Yay for having lots of people with untreated illness working in businesses that we all frequent!  (Well, of course, if you believe the fairy tale that we can stomp our feet real hard and magically remove all the illegals from our midst, you have nothing to worry about.)

It appears that new census data don’t back up Bachus’ assertions about the uninsured:

Undocumented Immigrants
The census data effectively punch holes in the most common misrepresentations that reform opponents make about the uninsured. The anti-reform lobby says the group comprises mostly illegal immigrants; people who can afford insurance and forswear it; candidates for public assistance who don’t bother to sign up; and people who are uncovered only for brief periods and thus (presumably) don’t warrant our concern…

…As for how many uninsured illegal immigrants there are, I’ve seen estimates as high as 12 million. No data support that figure. The Pew Hispanic Center, crunching the census figures, concluded that about 49% of all non-citizen permanent residents of the U.S. are here illegally. Applying that ratio to the Census Bureau’s estimate of 9.5 million noncitizens among the uninsured would suggest that the number of illegal immigrants among them is about 4.7 million…

“Voluntary” Uninsured
…Citing the 2005 edition of the census report, [Julia] Seymour [of the Business & Media Institute] stated that “there are 8.3 million uninsured people who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and 8.74 million who make more than $75,000 a year.”

In other words, she said, “that’s roughly 17 million people who ought to be able to ‘afford’ health insurance because they make substantially more than the median household income of $46,326.” She repeated this claim again in June.

In fact, the 2005 census report said nothing of the kind. It said 17 million uninsured people lived in households with household income of $50,000 or more, a very different matter. (The figure in the latest census report is 17.7 million.)

You see, a single household can have one person in it, or four, or 10. It can be one family, or two or four. If one wage earner pulling down $50,000 shares an apartment with a spouse and three children, that’s not five people each earning $50,000 as Seymour, in her confusion, would conclude — it’s a low-income family, which in many states would qualify for Medicaid…

People Eligible but Not Currently Signed Up for Public Programs
…Next we come to low-income uninsureds who are eligible for public programs such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but who haven’t signed up. The critics claim they number somewhere between 11 million and 14 million and shouldn’t be counted among the uncovered 46 million.

They may be right about the numbers. Underutilization of public programs is a well-known problem. Indeed, a strong outreach component is written into H.R. 3200, the Democratic healthcare reform bill, for exactly that reason.

Yet their complaint brims with irony. Many of those who say we shouldn’t label people who don’t make use of public programs as “uninsured” are the same people agitating against the public option in healthcare reform. In other words, they’re saying that up to 14 million Americans wouldn’t be uninsured if they just took advantage of, um, a public option…

“Short Term” Uninsured
…Finally we come to the short-term uninsured. The claim here is that as many as 80% of all those who lose coverage regain it after as little as four months. McBride, who has studied this issue, says that’s a misunderstanding of statistical math based on the difference between the flow of people in and out of the uninsured cohort and the status of those without insurance at any given point of measurement.

Citing a study by the Congressional Budget Office, he observed that although half of those who become uninsured in a given year regain coverage within a few months, about 80% of those who lack health insurance at a particular time end up being uninsured for more than 12 months, the definition of “chronically uninsured.” [all emphasis mine]

How many of you think Bachus would re-examine his positions in light of these numbers?  Anyone?

The proposed bills floating around now aren’t perfect, but the Republican opposition isn’t to those bills, it’s to reform period.  That’s been clear since Chuck Grassley started moving the goal posts.  Tort reform and locking down the borders, Bachus’ proposed “solutions”, just aren’t going to cut it.

And for a really different approach to health care reform, I recommend “How American Health Care Killed My Father”.  Not saying I endorse all of the author’s recommendations ($50,000 out of pocket?), but he’s absolutely right about the disconnect between patients and care providers, and the resultant lack of awareness of both cost and quality, inherent in our current system.

2 Responses to “Some Required Reading for Spencer Bachus”

  1. Del says:

    This is only tangentially related, but I am itching for a chance to hear somebody bitching about illegals so I can ask them, “What are you doing to avoid doing business with people who hire illegals? Here is a list of the stores that sell produce picked by illegals and chicken, pork and beef processed by illegals. Are you willing to join me in a boycott of those stores?”

    This idea is still in the fantasy stage so naturally I don’t have the details ironed out quite yet. :)

  2. Kathy says:

    Several years ago, a family member sent me a nasty cartoon portraying illegal immigrants as lazy, welfare-seeking scum. I replied that if one wanted to stop illegal immigration, one would need to start with substantial prison sentences for CEOs whose companies hired illegals — and PLEASE DON’T SEND ME ANY MORE CARTOONS.

    I fully expect your questions to be met with blank stares.

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