Friday, August 29, 2008

Are ER's the Solution to the American Health Care Crisis

Two days ago, Mr. John Goodman, a policy advisor to Senator John McCain commented on a recent report of the number of uninsured Americans'. According to the Dallas News;

'Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain's health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort.

"So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care. "

"So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved." '

Which seemed like an odd statement to me. Not that I think a politician wouldn't hide their head in the sand but this seemed too over the top. Luckily the National Center for Policy Analysis released a statement yesterday.

Although 15.3% of Americans do not have health insurance;

"Nearly 18 million of the uninsured lived in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and could likely afford health insurance" and "Up to 14 million uninsured adults and children qualified for government programs in 2004 but had not enrolled".

"In theory, therefore, about 32 million people, or 70 percent of the uninsured, could easily obtain coverage but have chosen to forgo insurance, explains Herrick. That means that about 95 percent of United States residents either have health coverage or access to it. The remaining 5 percent live in households that earn less than $50,000 annually. This group does not qualify for Medicaid and (arguably) earns too little to easily afford expensive family plans costing more than $12,106 per year. A uniform tax credit would go a long way toward helping this group afford coverage."

Which begs the question; can a family living on $50,000 a year really afford insurance at $12,106 a year? Maybe the cost of living is different in Canada than the US but that seems like a very thin margin for housing, food and other necessities of life.

Regardless, the reality is that 15% of people still don't have insurance and even if that number was cut in half are emergency departments still supposed to provide chronic care?

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