To the Editor,

I was dismayed by the inaccuracies in the opinion piece, “The perfect hospital at the end of the universe” published in your July 27, 2009 edition. I acknowledge that the staff writer is entitled to his opinion concerning the current debate over health care reform. But, he is not entitled to make up facts about the uninsured in this country.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, in 2007, there were 45.7 million uninsured persons in this country. This is not a “supposed” statistic! Of those 45.7 million, 10.23 million were not U.S citizens — not the “up to 20 million” as stated by Mr. Jarzen. He further states that they are 10 million uninsured persons who “could afford to purchase their own insurance but choose not to”, because they choose to buy “second cars, bigger houses or new flat-screens” instead of insurance. Who are these persons? I know of no data to support this assertion. Is he referring to the about 19 million uninsured young adults between the ages of 18-30 year? It is probably true that some young adults forgo health insurance so they can buy other goods. But, it is also the case that many young people cannot afford insurance, because they work in low paying jobs that may not provide health insurance benefits.

Finally, Mr. Jarzen claims that there are 9-10 million persons who are temporarily uninsured while they are between jobs. Actually, this is a gross underestimate, because according to a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 45% of the uninsured, or about 25 million persons, are uninsured for less than 4 months. But, this should not be taken to mean, as Jarzen implies, that all of these temporarily uninsured persons are not disadvantaged by not having health insurance. Going four months without insurance could prove to be critical for individuals with chronic diseases and disabilities.

One important statistic concerning the uninsured that Jarzen didn’t include in his piece is that 22 million of the uninsured in 2007 worked full-time during that year, and that another 5.6 million uninsured worked part-time. These are working Americans who worked in low paying jobs without health insurance benefits. He also didn’t mention that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that about 18,000 uninsured Americans die every year, because they don’t have access to adequate medical care.

Mr. Jarzen is to be commended for pointing out that the uninsured are not a homogeneous group in terms of potential medical need; or in terms of whether they would be perceived by the public as deserving of government assistance. However, this does not give him license to base his basically ideologically driven arguments on inaccuracies.

Charles B. Moseley
Chair, Department of Health Care Administration and Policy

NOTE: Letters to the editor run unedited.

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