The nation's uninsured, estimated at 41 million, would use $34 billion to $69 billion in additional healthcare services if fully insured, according to a study for the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. That equals a 3% to 6% increase in total U.S. healthcare spending and a less than 1 percentage point rise in the industry's share of the gross domestic product -- to between 14.5% and 14.9% from the current level of 14.1%, according to the study. Given the benefits of universal healthcare coverage, the additional cost "may be a relatively small or at least a very worthwhile investment," the researchers wrote, noting that federal tax cuts enacted since 2001 are expected to have a larger price tag, reducing average annual revenue by almost $170 billion.
The uninsured now receive $98.9 billion in healthcare annually, including insurance payments for people with part-year coverage, out-of-pocket and other payments, and uncompensated care, the study said. Healthcare spending would rise less if the uninsured were covered by the public insurance system ($34 billion) than the private system ($69 billion). That's because healthcare utilization is typically lower under public programs than private, while private health plans generally pay higher rates, the authors said. The report, prepared by Urban Institute researchers, was published today on Health Affairs' Web site. Read the report. -- by Tony Fong