When I was a newspaper reporter, the most valuable lesson I ever learned was that there was no such thing as a “poster child.”
To this day, when I read a story that tugs at the heartstrings but fulfills a political purpose, I write it off as fiction. So when the Washington Post drummed up one of those stories earlier this week, I knew it was too good to be true. Imagine when, to my pleasant surprise, the newspaper published a “clarification” to the story today.
On Monday, the Post published, “Left Behind: Stories from Obamacare’s 31 Million Uninsured.” The story is about a visit to a free clinic in Arlington, Va., and describes how once the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is fully enacted, there will still be a need for such clinics because an estimated 31 million people in the United States won’t be covered.
The story’s “nut graph,” as we reporters used to call it, is as follows:
The Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping health care program created in a half century, is expected to extend coverage to 25 million Americans over the next decade, according to the most recent government estimates. But that will still leave a projected 31 million people without insurance by 2023. Those left out include undocumented workers and poor people living in the 21 states, such as Virginia, that have so far declined to expand Medicaid under the statute, commonly called Obamacare.
One of the reporters behind the story, Sarah Kliff, must have realized she left out mention one of largest groups of uninsured, because she wrote a followup article today. The biggest percentage of uninsured, at least according to some estimates, will be those who qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled.
For healthcare providers and partners who collect patient debt, this is not news. By far one of the most frustrating facts about self-pays is that a large percentage qualify for Medicaid, charity care, or other programs, but won’t fill out the paperwork.
As Kliff’s article points out, the states that will not be expanding Medicaid means 4 million Americans will not get coverage. The majority of the remaining 27 mllion are undocumented aliens and the aforementioned poor who qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled. In all cases, the burden of the uninsured will fall upon healthcare providers.