The cost of providing health care for
U.S. citizens who have no insurance will total $125 billion
this year, with taxpayers and private entities footing most of
the bill, a report issued on Monday said.
The report by a health care research foundation estimated
that there are 44 million Americans without any health
insurance, and soaring health care costs have become a
presidential campaign issue.
On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry accused President Bush of letting skyrocketing health care
costs push families to the brink of financial ruin.
Bush signed legislation last year adding a prescription
drug benefit to Medicare, but that measure is now embroiled in
controversy, including much higher-than-projected costs.
The new report, sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, argued that the country can
afford health care for all of the uninsured.
"Leaving 44 million Americans uninsured exacts a
substantial price on society as well as individuals, while
covering the uninsured would improve their health care without
generating large increases in overall health spending," said
Diane Rowland, executive director, Kaiser Commission on
Medicaid and the Uninsured.
The nation would have to spend an extra $48 billion to
cover the so-called newly uninsured, the report said. But that
would only increase health care spending's share of gross
domestic product by 0.4 percent.
Still, the extra $48 billion would be on top of the $125
billion that will be spent this year on health care for the
uninsured, the report said. Its recommendation would push the
total to $173 billion.
This estimate was based on the out-of-pocket expenses
incurred by uninsured patients, the hospitals' costs, and
insurance payments for any coverage the individuals had during
In 2004, each person who is covered by a health care plan
will spend about $2,975 on medical bills, the study said.
That works out to about twice the amount individuals who
lack insurance will spend out of their own pockets.
Partly because they lack insurance, an additional 18,000
adults die each year, the report estimated, citing figures from
a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.
People who have no health insurance typically get less
preventive care, are diagnosed with more advanced diseases, and
"tend to receive less therapeutic care and have higher
mortality rates," the report said.
Hospitals will spend billions of dollars treating the
uninsured, though these organizations typically get big
government subsidies, the report said. In 2001, hospitals
accounted for more than 60 percent of what was spent on
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited.