Who are the 47 million?

Letter to the Editor
Published: 8/3/2008 11:11 PM

Forty-seven million people in the United States do not have health insurance. That's what politicians tell us. Week after week this number is repeated. I've even seen it in newspapers. It must be true.

Assuming the number of uninsured is as reported, there are undoubtedly many reasons for this. It is unlikely that a one-size-fits-all solution can be crafted that is fair to all, while keeping costs under control.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the "47" number into categories so that we have a better understanding of the problem. For instance, how many of the uninsured have incomes greater than $50,000? How many could qualify for Medicaid? How many have been without insurance for more than six months? How many are American citizens? How many would buy insurance if the costs were reduced by the general availability of catastrophic health insurance combined with health savings accounts, posting of hospital costs and doctors' fees, basic insurance plans without state-mandated frills, limitations on the liabilities of doctors and hospitals, and other cost-cutting measures?

The answers to a few dozen questions could give us some guidance in paring down the 47 million to a more manageable and realistic number, which would enable us to better evaluate proposed solutions.

William McNerney

St. Charles