Capital Domes

by Lesley Politi on November 17, 2008

Gov. Rendell recently made the politically motivated claim, “two Pennsylvanians die each day from the lack of health insurance.”


Using Rendell’s logic, it is equally accurate — and absurd — to state that at least six Pennsylvanians die each day because they are on government health insurance, and four more die because of government regulations and interventions in health care.


The basis of Rendell’s claim is a Families USA “report” citing data that, nationally, 22,000 adults — including 710 in Pennsylvania — die annually because they lack health insurance. Unfortunately, Rendell’s cure — more government health care — is worse than the disease

The report and similar studies use statistics showing lower survival rates following diagnoses among the uninsured than those with private insurance. What they ignore, however, is that statistics also show lower survival rates among those with government insurance: Medicaid and Medicare participants. Both Medicaid and Medicare have lower survival rates than do the uninsured.


As David Gratzer writes in The Cure, “Their paper … found even lower survival rates for those with Medicaid. In other words, if lack of insurance can be argued to have a negative effect on health, Medicaid coverage is worse. Taking their conclusion a step further, it would seem that the nation’s poor would do better if we scrapped Medicaid.”


Naturally, neither the lack of health insurance nor the presence of government health insurance kills people. That is, no deaths are caused because individuals lack insurance. But the data demonstrate that government health insurance provides a lower quality of care than private insurance.


Putting more individuals on government-run health insurance would diminish, not improve, the quality of health care in Pennsylvania. Instead, policies should be adopted to increase the affordability of private insurance.


For more information, see the Commonwealth Foundation’s PolicyPoints, Health Care Reform, and its report on Medicaid Reform.


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