In an effort to undermine health care reform, some fairly prominent conservatives argue that the estimated number of uninsured Americans (currently 45.7 million) is inflated. Some Americans are uninsured by choice, they contend, pointing to the 11-13 million uninsured Americans in their 20s who allegedly “shun insurance either because their age makes them feel invulnerable.” Here is a sampling:
BOB DOLE: Where do you get the number 47 million? When you watch CBS, they may tell you that number. However, 11 million of that total are illegal immigrants. Ten million more are people who can buy their own insurance. Finally, another 10 million are people your own age who think they are never going to get sick or hurt and are not vulnerable. [Tufts Daily, 12/2008]
MIKE HUCKABEE: Of those 47 million, one-third don’t have it because they are self-insured. Another one-third don’t have it because they think they’re healthy and invincible. There is one-third that don’t have it because they can’t afford it. [FactCheck.org, 12/11/2007]
But as today’s New York Times points out, a great majority of these so-called “young invincibles” lack insurance because they can’t afford it:
Young adults are the nation’s largest group of uninsured — there were 13.2 million of them nationally in 2007, or 29 percent, according to the latest figures from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group in New York. … In dozens of interviews around the city, these so-called young invincibles described the challenge of living in a high-priced city on low-paying jobs, where staying healthy is one part scavenger hunt and one part balancing act, with high stakes and no safety net.
Indeed, as James Kvaal and Ben Furnas reiterate in a forthcoming report, [chart on the right], approximately “66 percent of people aged 18-34 without insurance are poor or near-poor.”