WASHINGTON – People without health insurance will cost each insured American family an average of $922 this year,according to a study released Wednesday by a group advocating for greater health care coverage.
Uninsured patients often pay for some of their care,but hospitals and doctors absorb most of the rest and charge more to other patients and their insurance companies to cover losses. Local,state and federal governments pay the rest. Families USA estimated the total cost of such care at more than $43 billion for 2005.
“Somebody's got to pay for that care,” said Ron Pollack,executive director and vice president of Families USA.
The non-profit Families USA commissioned the study by Kenneth Thorpe,professor at Emory University. He found that those bearing the burden of costs are businesses and individuals paying for health insurance premiums. Health insurance subscribers are spending more than one of every $12 premium dollars on uninsured patient care,the study said.
New Mexico,Arkansas,California,Florida and Texas lead the nation in the percentages of uninsured,each with 20 percent or more of their populations,according to the study.
Families will pay an average of $1,293 in Arizona and $1,551 in Texas to care for the uninsured this year.
“The large increases of the uninsured is no longer just a concern for altruistic Americans,” Pollack said.
Rising health care costs are a major concern for business owners,said Sen. Gordon Smith,R-Ore. He said that he struggles to provide insurance to more than 400 employees of his frozen vegetable processing company.
“It has been one of the biggest budget items that I have encountered,” Smith said.
The study was designed to help people understand why health care cost increases resulting from uninsured patients will continue,Pollack said.
The uninsured “are getting the most expensive,least effective care,” said Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius,D,who served as president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners before taking her post in 2002.“The single highest cause of bankruptcy in America are health costs.”
While automobile insurance companies have been displaying additional costs incurred to cover uninsured motorists for years,this is the first data available on the costs of those without health insurance,Sebelius said.