PI Original Josh Kalven Tuesday June 10th, 2008, 9:24am

Kirk Twists Facts About Uninsured Americans

On May 10, 2008, Rep. Mark Kirk spoke privately to the Republicans of Wheeling Township. Some snippets of Kirk's "thoughtful" remarks have already been made public over at Archpundit's site, including his statement that Bush has been a "decisive" ...

On May 10, 2008, Rep. Mark Kirk spoke privately to the Republicans of Wheeling Township. Some snippets of Kirk's "thoughtful" remarks have already been made public over at Archpundit's site, including his statement that Bush has been a "decisive" president (which is true ... I guess) and his claim that the situation in Iraq has "substantially improved in the past year."

Progress Illinois has come into possession of another clip from the event. In this one, Kirk blatantly misleads his GOP audience about the makeup of the uninsured population in America. Listen:

Internal mp3

Let's first take Kirk's claim that "15 million" of the 47 million uninsured Americans are illegal immigrants. His assumption seems to be that all undocumented immigrants currently residing in the country lack health care. To the contrary, a study (PDF) recently released by the National Institute for Health Care Management put the number of uninsured illegal immigrants at approximately 5.6 million. If the Kirk campaign wants to send over materials supporting their "15 million" claim, I'd be more than happy to post their response.

Second, we have Kirk's assertion that no one under the poverty line "lack[s] healthcare in America." This is just plain false. A 2007 report by the Kaiser Foundation found that 36 percent (or 16.7 million) of the non-elderly uninsured have incomes below the poverty level. So why aren't these folks covered by Medicaid? Because you must be either disabled, pregnant, or have dependents to be eligible for the program -- a fact lost on Kirk, apparently.

What about Kirk's suggestion that there are no uninsured children in this country? In fact, the same Kaiser study shows that 20 percent (or 9.3 million) of the uninsured are under 18 years of age.

Finally, Kirk asserts that the uninsured are "overwhelmingly 20 and 30 year-olds." Granted, a large chunk of the uninsured are in the 19-34 range -- 39 percent, according to Kaiser. But it can't be ignored that 32 percent of this population are in the 35-54 age bracket.

So while Kirk would have Republicans believe that the uninsured are either gainfully-employed young folks or illegal immigrants, the reality is much more complicated. And much more troubling.

Here's the transcript of Kirk's remarks:

KIRK: We all know that a lot of people in the country don't have access to healthcare. By the way, of the 47 million that they tell you, remember they're including illegal aliens. Do you think the taxpayers should pay for healthcare for illegal aliens?

AUDIENCE (in unison): No.

KIRK: Well that knocks off 15 million off right there. Then for the 30 million, you just have to say, "Who doesn't have healthcare?" If you're 65 or older, do you lack healthcare in America?

AUDIENCE (in unison): No.

KIRK: No, that's Medicare. If you're under the poverty line, do you lack healthcare in America?

AUDIENCE (in unison): No.

KIRK: No, that's Medicaid. So who are the uninsured who are not illegals? They're generally under 65 and above the poverty line. The numbers are overwhelmingly 20 and 30 year olds working for small businesses, the heart and sole of the economy in the United States.

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