The cost to society of Americans living without health insurance could run into hundreds of billions of dollars, according to a new report released by the American College of Physicians.
The college's The Cost of Lack of Health Insurance is a comprehensive analysis of studies that have been done on the direct costs the health sector incurs due to the uninsured, as well as the costs associated with the adverse health implications of living without insurance.
The ACP released the report to coincide with Covering the Uninsured Week.
In terms of direct costs to the health system (in 2001 dollars), the uninsured receive as much as $98 billion in medical care, $35 billion of which is considered uncompensated, the report says. Diverse sectors of the health care system bear the direct costs of this care, according to the report:
- Total government spending on the uninsured is about $30 billion a year, representing the bulk of the cost.
- Hospitals provide about $24 billion worth of uncompensated care.
- Physicians spend about $5.1 billion a year caring for patients who cannot pay their bills.
- Employers and managed care companies spend between $1.5 and $3 billion through higher rates to cover part of the $24 billion hospitals spend caring for the uninsured.