Uncompensated care, or expenses not paid out-of-pocket, for the nearly 77 million Americans without insurance during all or part of this year could total up to $57 billion, according to an analysis published online by the journal Health Affairs. The government subsidizes as much as three-quarters of uncompensated care, or $42.9 billion, researchers wrote. Physicians underwrite another $7.8 billion by donating time and lost profits, and hospitals absorb $6.3 billion of the unfunded expenses.
Cost-shifting by providers to offset care for the uninsured probably has only a very small impact on private insurance premiums, at most 1.7% of private insurance costs, the authors wrote. The analysis suggests hospitals do not raise prices for private insurers to offset uncompensated care, which has been a relatively stable 6% of hospital costs for many years, despite a steady increase in the percentage of people uninsured. Insurance coverage for those without would increase healthcare spending by $122.6 billion. -- by Melanie Evans