The Census Bureau recently released its annual study on “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011,” and reported that in 2011 there were 48.6 million Americans living in 20.5 million U.S. households without health insurance, which was a slight decrease from the 49.9 million uninsured Americans in 2010.
The chart above shows the distribution of those 20.5 million uninsured households by household income level in 2011. There were 3.1 million U.S. households making $75,000 per year or more who were not covered by health insurance in 2011, and this group represented 15% of the total number of uninsured households last year. There were 3.3 million American households without health insurance with household income between $50,000 and $75,000 in 2011, representing 16% of the uninsured. For those two groups combined, 31% of Americans without health insurance last year were living in the 6.4 million uninsured U.S. households with annual income of $50,000 or more.
Q: With $50,000 or more in household income, wouldn’t many or most of those 6.4 million American households be without health insurance voluntarily? That is, couldn’t many of those households afford some type of low-cost basic health insurance? As one example, you can purchase high-deductible basic health insurance coverage through BlueCross BlueShield of Texas for as low as$80 per month for a 30-year old male and for $102 per month for a 30-year old female, which is about the same as the monthly cost of a cell phone or cable TV plan.
Alternatively, with those income levels (especially the 3.1 million households with income above $75,000), couldn’t many of those households choose to forgo health insurance in favor of being “self-insured,” at least for routine health procedures? Given the widespread availability of more than 1,300 convenient and affordable retail health clinics around the country at Wal-Marts, Targets, Meijers, CVSs and Walgreens, these households could easily operate on the “pay-as-you-go” model of self-insurance for health care, at least for routine medical services. And even for more expensive medical procedures, there are market-based medical providers like MediBid and the Surgery Center of Oklahoma that provide low-cost, cash-only medical services like surgery and MRIs at huge savings for self-pay patients.
It’s also the case that about 4 out of 10 uninsured Americans (38.1%) in 2011 were between the ages of 19 and 34 years, and more than half of the uninsured were between ages 19 and 44. It’s possible that many of the younger people in those age groups are voluntarily uninsured and instead decide to be “self-insured” because they are young and healthy and elect not to purchase health insurance.
As Thomas Sowell wrote three years ago when Obamacare was being rushed through Congress before the August recess:
As for those uninsured Americans who are supposedly the reason for all this sound and fury [Obamacare], there is remarkably little interest in why they are uninsured, despite the incessant repetition of the fact that they are. The endless repetition serves a political purpose but digging into the underlying facts might undermine that purpose. Many find it sufficient to say that the uninsured cannot “afford” medical insurance. But what you can afford depends not only on how much money you have but also on what your priorities are.
Many people who are uninsured have incomes from which medical insurance premiums could readily be paid without any undue strain (see chart above). Many young people, especially, don’t buy medical insurance and elderly people already have Medicare. The poor have Medicaid available, even though many do not bother to sign up for it, until they are already in the hospital– which they can do then.
Throwing numbers around about how many people are uninsured may create the impression that the uninsured cannot get medical treatment, when it fact they can get medical treatment at any hospital emergency room.
MP: We’ve now got Obamacare coming soon, and everybody will be forced to buy a federally approved insurance policy whether they want one or not, even those who can currently afford insurance but choose not to, and the young 18-34 year-olds who also currently elect not to buy insurance. We might have another very expensive government solution to what might have been very much of a non-problem.