The uninsured

THE UNINSURED…. Following up on yesterday’s item, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed yesterday from someone named George Newman, described as “an economist and retired business executive.” The point of the piece was to try to debunk some of the common arguments in support of health care reform. We talked about Newman’s absurd comparison of health insurance and grocery stores, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Newman noted that reform advocates like to argue, “45 million people in the U.S. are uninsured.” Not surprisingly, he finds this unpersuasive.

Even if this were true (many dispute it) should we risk destroying a system that works for the vast majority to help 15% of our population?

First, the 45 million figure is understating the case, and doesn’t include the tens of millions who are underinsured, or the many more whose insurance disappears when they need it most. Second, we can extend coverage without “destroying” the system. And third, 15% of the population is 45 million Americans, many of them children. Callous disregard for their health is ridiculous.

Newman followed up on this by noting that reform advocates also argue, “The cost of treating the 45 million uninsured is shifted to the rest of us.”

So on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are harangued about the 45 million people lacking medical care, and on Tuesday and Thursday we are told we already pay for that care. Left-wing reformers think that if they split the two arguments we are too stupid to notice the contradiction.

Out here in the real world, where the grown-ups live, this is nonsensical. Those tens of millions of Americans who have no insurance sometimes, believe it or not, get sick. They don’t seek care, because they don’t have insurance. Occasionally, their conditions worsen, and they require emergency medical care, which is extremely expensive. Since, of course, they can’t afford it, and hospitals need to get paid, the costs are — you guessed it — “shifted to the rest of us.”

Is this really that complicated? Did the editors of the Wall Street Journal‘s op-ed page even read this piece before publishing it?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.