Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not Exactly "Breaking News"

According to a new study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, uninsured folks seem to receive less health care than those with insurance. The study goes on to say that those without insurance suffer worse outcomes than insured folks.
Why would this surprise anyone?
If anything, this is an indictment of the medical field: why are providers short-changing their patients? Isn't everyone entitled to the very best care?
Well, no:
Folks with no (or poor) credit must pay higher interest rates than those with excellent credit. In fact, many auto and home insurance carriers charge folks with poor credit higher premiums. Does this mean that folks with no or poor credit can't rent an apartment? No, of course not. And they can insure it, as well. They'll pay more, and get less. But that's how the system works.
Am I unsympathetic to the uninsured? Not really, but the the problem with studies like this one is that they do a poor job of educating the public because they misrepresent the issues.
For one thing, they treat the uninsured as a static population; it is not. Folks constantly move in and out of this demographic. So many people who were uninsured last year are insured this year, and vice-versa. Doesn't mean they won't get care, or that their lives are forever ruined. For the relatively few hard-core uninsured, there are a myriad of government programs to help them. But, as Mike's pointed out, that same system has done a poor job of taking care of them.
One sentence in that release stood out for me: "the uninsured were more likely to report not fully recovering and no longer being treated following an accident and roughly seven months after the initial health shock." Whose fault is that? I don't know, and I suspect that the authors were none to interested in following that up (or if they were, the answers may not have supported some inferences). There are clinics and other facilities available to pretty much everyone (at little or no cost), but there's no law that forces folks to follow up with their own care.
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