u.s. uninsured health care cost put at $125 billion
mon may 10, 9:28 pm et
by joan gralla
new york (reuters) - the cost of providing health care for u.s. citizens who have no insurance will total $125 billion this year, with taxpayers and private entities footing most of the bill, a report issued on monday said.
the report by a health care research foundation estimated that there are 44 million americans without any health insurance, and soaring health care costs have become a presidential campaign issue.
on monday, democratic presidential candidate john kerry accused president bush of letting skyrocketing health care costs push families to the brink of financial ruin.
bush signed legislation last year adding a prescription drug benefit to medicare, but that measure is now embroiled in controversy, including much higher-than-projected costs.
the new report, sponsored by the washington, d.c.-based henry j. kaiser family foundation, argued that the country can afford health care for all of the uninsured.
"leaving 44 million americans uninsured exacts a substantial price on society as well as individuals, while covering the uninsured would improve their health care without generating large increases in overall health spending," said diane rowland, executive director, kaiser commission on medicaid and the uninsured.
the nation would have to spend an extra $48 billion to cover the so-called newly uninsured, the report said. but that would only increase health care spending's share of gross domestic product by 0.4 percent.
still, the extra $48 billion would be on top of the $125 billion that will be spent this year on health care for the uninsured, the report said. its recommendation would push the total to $173 billion.
this estimate was based on the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by uninsured patients, the hospitals' costs, and insurance payments for any coverage the individuals had during the year.
in 2004, each person who is covered by a health care plan will spend about $2,975 on medical bills, the study said.
that works out to about twice the amount individuals who lack insurance will spend out of their own pockets.
partly because they lack insurance, an additional 18,000 adults die each year, the report estimated, citing figures from a branch of the national academy of sciences.
people who have no health insurance typically get less preventive care, are diagnosed with more advanced diseases, and "tend to receive less therapeutic care and have higher mortality rates," the report said.
hospitals will spend billions of dollars treating the uninsured, though these organizations typically get big government subsidies, the report said. in 2001, hospitals accounted for more than 60 percent of what was spent on uncompensated care.