The chart above is from new data released today by the US Census Bureau. The chart shows the percentage of people by age and gender who are insured. Amidst disccusion of universal coverage through a possible health care mandate, the chart above reminds us that Americans do a very good job of obtaining health care coverage. Almost 85 percent of Americans have coverage.
Those least likey to have health care coverage are the young. Yet even among men aged 20 to 24, the group least likely to be covered, 69 percent have coverage. A successful mandate could increase coverage in this group by no more than 30 percent. While some young people may want health insurance and cannot presently afford it. Young people do face significnatly higher unemployment rates (the rate for men 20-24 was about 10 percent in 2008 and reached over 16 percent in the first quarter of 2009). Given that employers typically sponsor health plans, low labor force particiaption may be a barrier for some. Yet many likely see themselves as healthy and are willing to take a risk by not having health insurance.
Thos who support mandates are most likely to point to the right side of this chart and point out that mandates have worked for older Americans. The coverage rate jumps from the high eighties to almost one hundred percent at age 65, the Medicare claiming age. Yet a Meicare-like option, where younger workers help support fees for older workers though payroll taxes, cannot be replicated upon younger workers—there is no one younger to subsidize them.