Everyday 14,000 Americans Lose Their Coverage, Really?

On September 9, 2009 Barack Obama gave a speech on health care before a Joint Session of Congress in which he said that “every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage.”  In an email to its members on August 27, 2009 promoting vigils for those who can’t afford health insurance, MoveOn cited the same statistic of 14,000 people losing their coverage every day.  From where did this figure come and is it accurate?  MoveOn cites a study done by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank, in February of 2009 as the source of the statistic.

This study by the CAP based on a study by the Urban Institute published in April of 2008 calculated the figure of 14,000 from a ratio of unemployment to uninsured persons: for every 1% increase in unemployment, 2.5 million people lose their health insurance: 700,000 children and 1.7 million adults (you read that right, .7 + 1.7 = 2.5, not 2.4).  Of this number, the Urban Institute further discovered that approximately 1 million find group coverage elsewhere via Medicaid or SCHIP and another 400,000 find non-group coverage (ie: through a spouse’s insurance or an individual private plan).  That leaves us with 1.1 million people not insured at all for every 1% increase in unemployment.

In February, using the Urban Institute report, the Center for American Progress calculated the number of people who lost health insurance between December 2008 and January 2009.  Since unemployment increased 0.8% over that two month time period, the CAP estimated that 900,000 people lost their insurance which amounts to about 14,000 per day.  For that time period, that statistic is accurate. 

However, it deceives the public because as unemployment fluctuates, so does the number of people receiving and losing their health insurance.  For the last few months, that figure has been a gross exaggeration of the truth, but leftist groups and the administration continue to use it.  During the month of June, the unemployment rate increased by 0.1% to 9.5% which using the same methods that CAP used computes to 3,548 people losing health insurance every day.  Moreover, during the month of July which saw a 0.1% decrease in unemployment, one can calculate that 3,548 people actually gained health insurance every day.  For the month of August the number rose to over 10,000 people losing their health insurance each day if we use the same method of calculation.  These numbers paint a little different picture than the seven month old number of 14,000 cited by President Obama and MoveOn only a matter of weeks ago and clearly point to the very important relationship between employment and health insurance.  An understanding of the relationship between the two—employment and health insurance—is a critical part of achieving the goal of a more and cheaper health care for Americans.

We salute the Urban Institute and the Center for American Progress for attempting to calculate the number of people that lose their insurance with their jobs.  We hope that the statistic, when calculated and used correctly, will help to guide reform that will bring affordable health care to more Americans.  Whether the number of Americans losing their health insurance per day is 10,000 or 14,000, it is still a tragedy and we should fight to stop it.  Americans deserve portable health care that they will not lose with their job, but we disagree with the President and MoveOn about how we should go about offering it.

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