Larry Elder

About 45 million Americans lack health care insurance. Or do they?

A pro-"universal health care" television host recently cited this widely accepted "fact." The number is bogus.

Here's the skinny.

Start with the math. We have 300 million Americans. Subtract the 45 million -- 15 percent of us -- with no health insurance. That leaves 255 million Americans, or 85 percent, with it.

And the insurance is lousy, right? Not according to a 2006 ABC News/Kaiser Family Foundation/USA Today survey. It found that 89 percent of Americans were satisfied with the quality of their own health care.

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Nearly half of the 45 million fall in the category of my 26-year-old nephew. He smokes cigarettes, dates, eats out, goes to movies and, like all young people, lives through his cell phone. With a slight change in priorities, he could afford health insurance, the cost of which at his age and health starts at about $100 a month. Take a look at a Reason Foundation video of interviews with a bunch of non-health-insured 20-somethings.

These Gen Xers copped to dropping money on clothes, booze, nightlife, the latest tech gizmos and other things of interest to them. With a change in priorities, these young folks -- far more representative of those without insurance than the forlorn husband and wife sitting on a porch swing -- could both afford and qualify for health insurance. They simply consider it a low priority.

Millions more can access health care -- through SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program), Medicaid or other government programs. But for whatever reason, 11 million people simply refuse to take advantage of them.

Several million other Americans who want insurance do, indeed, go without it -- for a time. Many are, however, between jobs, and most -- at some point -- will find employment that either offers health insurance or pays enough so that they can buy it. Millions more work at companies that offer health insurance, and for a few dollars out of every paycheck, they could add family members. They choose not to.

What about criminals without insurance? More than 2 million Americans -- with access to health care, by the way -- use jail, prison or penitentiary mailing addresses. And for every one behind bars, how many live among us who survive by theft, drug dealing, prostitution or some similar career path? Taxpayer health insurance for them, too?


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.