IP-22-1993 (November 1993)
Author: Linda Gorman
The expansion of health insurance in the United States has enabled the majority of its citizens to afford the best medical care in the world. After World War II, only about 10 percent of the population had health insurance. Five decades later, the proportion has reached an estimated 85 percent. But alarmists prefer to ignore this fact and emphasize the number of uninsured. They tell us that only a government health care takeover can ensure access to health care for 500,000 Coloradans and 37 million Americans who are said to be unable to afford health insurance.
No one really knows either the exact number of uninsured or their circumstances. Any statement about the numbers of uninsured, their ages, their employment status, or the duration of their uninsured spells relies on a sample of a relatively small number of people. The rules of statistics are then used to extrapolate the survey results to the entire population. When working with unfamiliar data, even people with formal training in statistics can end up with an unrepresentative sample, apply the statistical rules incorrectly, or misinterpret results.(1) Other people tend to accept the resulting numbers as fact. This makes statistical studies particularly susceptible to manipulation by disingenuous people who wish to slant studies in favor of their pet policy. For those in favor of massive government intervention in the production of health care, exaggerating the number of uninsured is a constant temptation.