The folly of a new bureaucracy

Published 9:55 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The disclaimer is important enough that we will offer it right up front: The results of polls we conduct on our website, www.suffolknewsherald.com, do not represent a statistically correct sampling of our readers, Internet users or any other sample group. People who do not have access to the Internet — or those who never visit our website — never have the chance to vote, for instance. And a pollster conducting a similar survey would calculate a margin of error for his results.

Still, once in a while the results of a survey are so striking that we cannot ignore them. Last week’s question yielded that kind of response.

When we asked website visitors whether they had health insurance, 137 people responded during the week or so the question was live. Of that total, only 16 — just 11.7 percent of respondents — said they lacked health insurance, meaning that nearly 90 percent of those responding do, indeed, have it.

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One should be careful to draw too many conclusions from those results. An uncontrolled survey, to reiterate, has too much room for error and misinterpretation to set policy from its results. Still, though, it’s a tantalizing result.

Following the 2010 census, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 16.3 percent of Americans lacked health insurance. The number is likely to have risen during the recession, as people lost jobs through which they’d had the coverage. Furthermore, it’s also likely that Internet users and newspaper website visitors are generally more affluent than those who do neither, and therefore, they’re more likely to have health insurance. After the expected adjustments, our survey’s response might track pretty well with what the U.S. government already knows.

What’s the point, then? Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare for the president who pushed it through Congress during the early part of his term. The act, among a great deal of other things, would require most American citizens to have health insurance, and it would require most employers to provide that insurance.

The legislation was forced through Congress on the premise that it would solve the supposedly desperate problem of Americans who lack health insurance. In the most cynical presentations, it was presented as the only way to save people who were dying for lack of coverage.

But our survey and the Census Bureau’s count both seem to raise some important questions. Who are these people without insurance? Surely there are some who just cannot afford it, and they’re the least likely to have voted in our online poll. But isn’t it likely that a portion of the Census Bureau’s 16.3 percent comprises people who just don’t want to spend money for health insurance — young adults, for instance, who don’t expect it to pay off for them?

And if the government had wanted to solve the real problem of poor people lacking health care, wasn’t there some way to do so without creating a massive new bureaucracy that will touch every American and whose estimated costs have already outstripped the projections of its proponents?

Now the issue lies largely in the hands of the Supreme Court, which will have to decide based on issues relating to the U.S. Constitution, rather than plain, rational considerations. But America has begun to awake to the problem created by Obamacare, and even the most scientific surveys have begun to reveal its folly.