An Ugly Way To Get Insurance

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  • 09/20/2012

From The New York Post

An ugly way to get insurance
Last Updated: 11:23 PM, September 19, 2012
Posted: 11:10 PM, September 19, 2012

The good news: More Americans have health insurance. The bad news: It’s because they don’t have jobs.

ObamaCare supporters hail the drop in the number of uninsured, announced by the Census Bureau last week, as a sign of the new law’s success. In fact, it’s a sign of continued job-market decline and of how many of us have to depend on government programs for far too long.

Nearly 1.4 million more people had health insurance in 2011 than in 2010 — but that includes nearly 800,000 who gained coverage despite not working at all.

In short, the rise comes mainly from more Americans being forced into safety-net programs by declining incomes and reduced job opportunities.

Look at this trend another way: In 2011, the number of people covered by Medicaid jumped 2.3 million, while Medicare saw 2 million new enrollees.

And only 575,000 of those new Medicare cases were people turning 65. Most of the other 1.5 million is associated with the exponential growth in people becoming Medicare-eligible because they’ve filed for Social Security disability coverage.

By comparison, the number of people gaining health insurance via work rose only 730,000.

ObamaCare fans also claim that much of the increase in coverage came from the Obama law’s mandate that young adults can stay on their parents’ health plans until they turn 25.

Indeed, the administration boasted earlier this year that 3 million young adults got insurance that way. But the Census Bureau report shows that health coverage for people in that age bracket rose by only 540,000.

And it’s clear that ObamaCare was not responsible for much of even that increase. Past Census reports show the share of 19- to 25- year-olds on Medicaid or Medicare doubling from 2000 to 2011. That long-term trend — not the ObamaCare mandate — plainly accounts for a good chunk of the rise in coverage of these younger folks.

Slice it another way. The total increase in health coverage for ages 18-24 in 2011 was 825,000. Nearly 331,000 of that was from employer-based coverage. More than 220,000 was from Medicaid enrollment.

So, at most, that’s 247,000 from ObamaCare’s under-25 mandate.

And that gain comes at a hard-to-measure cost: The price of forcing insurers to cover under-25s on their parents’ policies is higher premiums for other people.

Let’s be clear: Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicare make health insurance affordable for tens of million of Americans. But that safety net, in place before ObamaCare was enacted, is supposed to be a temporary source of support when we need it, not a permanent solution.

And a jump in the number of Americans who have to use that safety net is nothing to brag about.

Robert Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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