What are we bragging about?
By Denis Storey
Have you heard? The number of uninsured people walking around took a dip last year. Must be because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. What a success… waitaminute… did anybody actually look at these numbers?
So, everyone’s all excited that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s official bean counters, the uninsured rate actually fell – by a whopping three-tenths of 1 percent. What? We’re still looking at “statistically” the same number: 48 million still without coverage, according to the bureau. So we’re going to spend more than $1 trillion over the next decade, based on numbers from the Cato Institute, to barely even move the needle on the uninsured population? Talk about a lousy ROI.
(In retrospect, maybe so many focused on this part of the report – which also took a look at poverty in this country, which has remained virtually unchanged since the 1990s – because it looked like a silver lining at the time. Funny, also, that this week has seen a bunch of health care-related numbers published, all of which are suspect.)
Other “highlights” from the report include: “Both the percentage and number of people with health insurance increased in 2012 to 84.6 percent and 263.2 million, up from 84.3 percent and 260.2 million;” and “The percentage of people covered by private health insurance in 2012 was not statistically different from 2011, at 63.9 percent. This is the second consecutive year that the percentage of people covered by private health insurance was not statistically different...”
My favorite part is that, despite all the horror stories, employer-sponsored actually grew by nearly a million, according to the report. Tell me again how our market is dying?
I suppose that, any other year, we’d be celebrating our ability to hold steady, but there’s a fine line between treading water and floating. And while the uninsured rate for poorer Americans fell, as well, it looks like the middle class is starting to throw in the towel, with the number of uninsured actually growing in that demographic.
But two factors aren’t getting a lot of conversation in the wake of what’s typically a well-publicized report.
One, PPACA kept millions of younger Americans on their parents' health care plans – a provision that actually didn’t get delayed. Can you image what would have happened to that number otherwise? I shudder at the thought.
And, finally, as our aging boomer population – both of the insured and uninsured variety – continues to graduate into Medicare, then, yeah, that number might improve. We’re just stuck with a bigger tab, none of us will be able to pay.
Originally published on BenefitsPro.com