In discussions of healthcare reform, those who have healthcare coverage sometimes ask why they should be responsible for subsidizing healthcare for others, whether through taxes or through a universal healthcare system.
One answer is, they already do.
Another answer is, because it helps all of us keep healthy, both medically and fiscally.
The Money Cost of the Uninsured
According to the National Coalition on Healthcare:
- The United States spends almost $100 billion per year to provide health services to people who are uninsured. Much of that money is spent, because uninsured patients wait until the 11th hour to seek care, when they could have been treated much more effectively and for less cost at an earlier stage of their medical problem.
- Each year, hospitals lose about $34 billion in unpaid bills from uninsured patients.
- About $26 billion is paid out-of-pocket by those with no insurance.
- Private insurance and some public payers pay an additional $37 billion on behalf of those with no insurance.
- Some of this money is spent on those who do have health insurance, but not enough insurance to cover their problems. They are underinsured.
- When people are not insured, or are underinsured, and wait to get treatment, the results are not just measured in dollars, but are also measured in productivity: time lost from work.
- To be sure, every penny mentioned above is already coming out of the pockets of those who do have insurance, either directly through insurance premiums or more indirectly through taxes. Families USA estimates that individuals pay $922 of their health insurance dollars to subsidize those who have no insurance.
The Health Cost of the Uninsured
Just as the money aspects of the uninsured have a ripple effect, so do the health aspects.
- Any infectious disease will spread from someone who is untreated and goes to work or school. With no care, or without the necessary drugs to treat a disease, it can easily spread to the general population, no matter who has insurance or doesn't.
- Public health problems expand as well. Childhood obesity and smoking are two examples of public health problems that end up costing all of us money, based on the cost of health.
- When adults get sick, they can't care for their children. At an extreme, children are left without their parents, causing even a further ripple effect on society.
- According to the study results from the journal Health Affairs, an estimated 101,000 Americans die each year, because they didn't have health insurance.