So I opened my CQ HealthBeat today and I see a curious headline: “Former CBO Director Says Many Americans Choose to Remain Uninsured.” And I thought that it looked a little odd, so I clicked through and noticed this:
June O’Neill, director of the CBO from 1995 to 1999, discussed at a forum sponsored by the libertarian Cato Institute a recent analysis of the uninsured that she co-wrote for the Employment Policies Institute, a non-profit research firm tied to business interests.
Ah, I see. Well, still, it’s bad to judge a book by it’s cover, so I hopped on over to the Employment Policies Institute to check out the report.
They find that at least 43 percent of Americans in the 18–64 year-old age group have incomes at or above 2.5 times the poverty line, indicating they likely have the means to obtain healthcare coverage and thus may be classified as “voluntarily” uninsured.
Just in case you wanted to run through the figures yourself, the federal poverty line for 2009 is $10,830. That means that of the 43 percent of the 47 million uninsured Americans are making more than $27,075 and therefore are “choosing” not to purchase health insurance. According the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average premium of employer sponsored health care (read: actually covers you) in 2007 was $4,704, or roughly 18 percent of this so-called “voluntarily” uninsured person’s income. On a monthly basis, that’s $392 per month — enough to lease a 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK-350. Now, I’m not advocating that people at 2.5 percent* times the federal poverty line spend their money on a Mercedes, but what I’m saying is if you knew someone who made $27,000 per year, you probably wouldn’t describe their lack of a Mercedes as “voluntary.”