In the last 11 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 percent of those unemployed have received unemployment compensation insurance benefits. An incorrect figure was given in an article yesterday. (Published 12/15/87)

Vice President Bush found himself struggling yesterday where many others have before: in the quagmire of national economic statistics.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Bush offered ideas about dealing with poverty, but, when pressed, said he had no idea how many people lack health insurance, overestimated the number of jobless workers who are not protected by unemployment insurance and said the statistics conflict over how many children are born into poverty.

Asked by Washington Post reporter David S. Broder how many citizens are protected by health insurance, Bush talked about a variety of health-care issues, but ended by saying he did not know.

He said, "We have the best medical-attention system in the world, and I don't want to see it go into the mode of England or this whole concept of socialized medicine where the government provides absolutely everything. You are going to break the government.

"So what I want to do is see our economy remain vigorous so we can do as much as possible," he said.

He said he thinks some people are affluent enough to pay for their health care without insurance, but ended by saying, "I don't know the answer to it, no."

The number of people without health care insurance is 37 million, Broder said.

Broder told Bush that he asked the questions because "Even more than most of your rivals, I think you've lived in a very special world. Certainly in the last seven years. And I want to try to sort of test how much you understand about some of the realities for the people in the country that you seek to lead."

Bush guessed that 50 percent of the unemployed are without unemployment insurance benefits. The answer is 30 percent, Broder said.

Bush said that he had seen conflicting statistics on the number of children born into families with income below the poverty line.

One in five, he was told.

"As president I would certainly do my level best to see that people who were born with that handicap {poverty}, and not having a fair start, would be taken care of," Bush said.

On other matters, Bush said he felt "very good" about the possibility of another arms agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union that would call for a 50 percent cut in strategic, or long-range, weapons. "I think there will be an agreement before Ronald Reagan leaves office," Bush said, three days after President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev held a summit here.

But Bush, in response to questions by New York Times writer R.W. Apple, said the summit pact is not a "euphoric agreement now on where we go in the world."

"This man {Gorbachev} is tough," Bush said. "Nice smile, but teeth of iron."