A new study at Health Affairs finds that 25 percent of the uninsured nationwide are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP and another 20 percent likely can afford coverage but go without. This leaves 56 percent in a category the authors describe as needing assistance to afford coverage. Even without the overly broad definition of those who ?need assistance,? this is good news. At face value, this means that we should not talk about the 46 million non-elderly uninsured, but the 25 million or fewer uninsured who lack either the ability to pay or who do not qualify for medical welfare. After all, health care advocates want to expand Medicaid to provide insurance to more people, so they must think it is a terrific program.

Again, without challenging the definition of affordability used by the authors, if 7.2 percent of those who can afford insurance choose not to purchase, why not apply that same figure to the ?need assistance? group? If we do that, the number of uninsured by necessity drops to 23 million.

But there is a problem with the authors? definition of affordability. They use annual premiums of $4,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families as their baselines. Even at three times the federal poverty level, the authors note, these premiums would take 13.8 percent of income for an individual and 17.9 percent of income for a family of four.

The average new car costs $27,800. Not everybody drives a new car, and those who do can choose a Nissan Versa to save money. Despite government attempts to drive up prices by limiting interstate competition and mandating benefits, individuals can still find insurance for less than $1,000 a year. This would be less than 4 percent of income.

Before we add more government to health care and health insurance, let’s try cutting back on government’s role.