Basic medical coverage could be made available to the nation's uninsured if total U.S. healthcare spending were increased by $69.9 billion, or about 5%, according to a study for Blue Shield of California, San Francisco. A study released last week by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimated the cost of covering the uninsured at $34 billion to $69 billion in additional spending. The Blue Shield report puts a price tag on a universal healthcare proposal unveiled last year by company Chairman and CEO Bruce Bodaken. According to the analysis, the federal government would spend an additional $75.3 billion for programs and services, while businesses and individuals who don't now buy insurance would have to spend an additional $40.5 billion and $17.9 billion, respectively. Meanwhile, employers and individuals who now purchase basic coverage would save $43 billion, while out-of-pocket spending, mostly by the uninsured, would decline by $20 billion. The amount spent on uncompensated care would drop by $29 billion; that savings is already accounted for in the net spending increase by the federal government and those who currently purchase insurance.
Bodaken's plan would require all employers to buy a basic benefits package for their workers or pay into a pool that provides coverage. Residents who remain uninsured would have to buy private insurance, but the government would subsidize the poor. Blue Shield released a report in April that found California's 6.6 million uninsured could receive basic coverage if healthcare spending in the state were upped by $7.8 billion. -- by Laura B. Benko