Paul Krugman made me pause this morning with his op-ed, Free to Die. In particular, he made me remember that as we debate (even here) whether we can actually choose to let people opt out of life-saving care in the United States, there is a sector or the population that doesn’t get to participate in that argument. I’m talking about children, because of course, children don’t get to make a “decision” to forego health insurance. Their being uninsured is not “freedom“. And here in the US, it’s worth remembering that we do a terrible job of protecting our children with respect to health insurance. Here’s the percentage of children who were uninsured for all of 2008 in a number of comparable countries: Note that doesn’t include kids in the US who were uninsured for some of the year, or who were underinsured. If I included those children, we’d look even worse, and everyone else would look about the same. And lest you think I’m cherry picking a bad year, here is most of the last decade:
As we congratulate ourselves for slightly better outcomes in this metric in the last year, I think it’s important we remember how much room for improvement remains. Moreover, as we debate the “freedom to choose” not to purchase insurance, it’s important to remember that there are large numbers of individuals who lack that right. They still need to be considered. And sometimes protected.