During his Newsradio 850 KOA show, host Mike Rosen dubiously asserted that 38 percent of the uninsured earn more than four times the federal poverty level. But, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, households with an income of more than $75,000 -- almost four times the federal poverty level -- make up less than 19 percent of those without health insurance.
Suggesting that there are a significant number of people who “can afford to buy [health] insurance but don't,” Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen cited unattributed statistics on his January 30 broadcast in asserting that “38 percent of the uninsured are high-income people making over 400 percent -- four times the federal poverty level -- that's $80,000 a year for family of four.” In fact, U.S. Census Bureau data suggest that, nationally, those with an annual household income of more than $75,000 comprise 18.8 percent of Americans without health insurance.
Rosen made his dubious assertion while speaking with Dr. Gary VanderArk, president of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved and a critic of Rosen's positions on health care.
Citing the National Center for Policy Analysis and Dr. David Gratzer's book The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care (Encounter Books, October 2006), Rosen concluded in his January 12 Rocky Mountain News column, “We have health insurance problems, to be sure, but no 'crisis.' ” VanderArk responded in the News' January 19 “Speakout” feature, calling Rosen's column “totally outrageous” and contesting his conclusions. VanderArk also stated, “Gratzer, a Canadian psychiatrist, offers absolutely no data to support his contention.”
During his January 30 radio appearance, VanderArk challenged Rosen's 38 percent figure, calling it “absolutely not true.” And though Rosen responded, “It's absolutely true, and I'll show you the statistics if you want ... we can reconcile our figures after the program if you like,” he never offered a source for the figure on air.
U.S. Census Bureau data issued in an August 2006 report show that 18.8 percent of the United States' 2005 uninsured population had a household income of $75,000 or greater. Based on the data, the entire uninsured population is 46,577,000; of that population, 8,740,000 had household income of $75,000 or more. The report noted that "[t]he likelihood of being covered by health insurance rises with income."
The data are based on “information collected in the 2006 and earlier Annual Social and Economic Supplements (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.”
Although the vagueness of Rosen's assertion made it unclear whether he was referring to the national or state uninsured population, a 2005 report from the Colorado Health Institute, also based on the U.S. Census Bureau's ASEC estimates, concludes within a 95 percent confidence interval that only 16.2 percent of the state's uninsured earned four times the federal poverty level.
From the January 30 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:
ROSEN: Back on January 12th, I had a column under the headline, “No 'Crisis' ” -- with the word “crisis” in quotes -- “of Uninsured,” and it dealt with some things that we've talked about on the program on a number of occasions.
ROSEN: Shortly after that -- a week later -- the Rocky Mountain News published as a “speakout” piece, in which a reader gets to present his views in something more extended than a letter to the editor, doctor Gary VanderArk, who's president of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved -- not undeserved, but underserved -- he had a response to my column under the headline, “Rosen Aside,” column -- excuse me, “Rosen Aside,” comma, “Healthcare Crisis is Real.” And in this he made some points in rebuttal -- some other points that I thought kind of sidestepped some of the things I had said -- and we invited Gary to be on the program with us. He's a Denver neurosurgeon, and he said he'd like to, and he's in the studio with us this morning.
VANDERARK: Mike, last year you and I paid one billion dollars to take care of these 770,000 people in the state of Colorado without health insurance. If you just give me a billion dollars, we can make sure that everyone has coverage.
ROSEN: Here's the problem -- and the devil is in the details. Some of the things you advocate sound nice, but they all have costs associated with them. Community rating systems provide a subsidy for people who have to pay much higher insurance premiums based on their health -- their poor health. They pay a lower premium because everybody else has to pay a higher premium in order to subsidize them. You don't dispute that, do you?
VANDERARK: No, I do -- don't.
ROSEN: OK. Regarding the people who can afford to buy insurance but don't -- 38 percent of the uninsured are high-income people making over 400 percent -- four times the federal poverty level -- that's 80,000 dollars a year for family of four.
VANDERARK: That's absolutely not true, Mike.
ROSEN: It's absolutely true, and I'll show you the statistics if you want. Thirty-eight percent of those who don't have insurance make more than four times the federal poverty level, and growth in uninsured has been in higher income categories in recent years rather than lower income categories.
VANDERARK: Fifteen percent of the people with incomes of more than 400 percent of federal poverty level choose not to have health insurance -- 15 percent.
ROSEN: Well, I've got 38 percent. So we can reconcile our figures after the program, if you like. In any event, even if it's 15 percent -- you've got 15 percent of the population -- I think it's much more -- who can buy health insurance and don't buy health insurance.