Underinsured

UNDERINSURED….Ezra Klein reminds us that we don’t merely have lots of people in the United States who lack health insurance completely, we also have lots of people who do have health insurance but don’t have enough of it:

The Commonwealth Fund estimates that about 14 percent of the population was underinsured in 2007. That sounds about right, and it’s a useful reminder that insurance isn’t binary, wherein you have it or you don’t. Rather, it exists on a continuum, with some folks being totally insured, some folks being half insured and half uninsured, some folks being totally uninsured but having access to emergency rooms, and so forth.

This is how American rationing actually manifests. Canada might have waiting times for non-essential treatments, but we have cost barriers to all manner of treatments. Some can’t afford the care, and so they go into debt, or have to sell their home. Others can’t afford the care, and so they never get it. We count that waiting time as zero rather than infinity, but that’s just a bad faith numbers trick meant to make us feel better.

But a good faith effort to count real waiting time would conclude that lots of Americans have to wait a long time for medical care. And we can’t have that, can we? After all, we have the best healthcare in the world.