Families USA Report Examines Cost of Uncompensated Care for Workers With Health Insurance
U.S. workers with individual employer-sponsored health insurance in 2005 will pay an average of $341 in additional premiums -- with total costs of $4,065 -- to cover the cost of treatment for the uninsured, according to a Families USA report released on Wednesday, the Washington Times reports.
The report --based on data from the Census Bureau, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Center for Health Statistics -- was the first to examine the financial implications of the cost of treatment for the uninsured for workers with health insurance, Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said (Higgins, Washington Times, 6/9). The report was based on data compiled by Emory University health economist Ken Thorpe (Rovner, CongressDaily, 6/8).
According to the report, uninsured residents will pay about one-third of their health care costs in 2005, which will leave an additional $43 billion in unpaid costs. Public health care programs such as Medicaid will cover about one-third of the unpaid costs, and workers with health insurance will cover the remainder of the costs through higher premiums, the report found (Washington Times, 6/9). As a result, the report found that employer-sponsored insurance will cost about 8.5% higher in 2005 "than it would ... if everyone in the United States had coverage," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
The report found that U.S. families in 2005 will pay an average of $922 in additional health insurance premiums to cover the cost of treatment for the uninsured (Perotin, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6/9). Total premium costs for a family with employer-sponsored health insurance will average $10,979 in 2005, according to the report (Reuters/New York Post, 6/9).
Workers in Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia -- which have large numbers of uninsured residents -- will pay at least $1,500 in additional health insurance premiums in 2005, the report found (CQ HealthBeat, 6/8).
In 2010, without reforms to the U.S. health care system, workers with individual employer-sponsored health insurance will pay an average of $532 in additional premiums -- with total costs of $6,115 -- to cover the cost of treatment for the uninsured, the report found.
The report also found that families in 2010 will pay an average of $1,052 in additional health insurance premiums -- with total costs of $17,273 -- to cover the cost of treatment for the uninsured. In 11 states, the additional health insurance premiums will exceed $2,000 per family.
The report said that the continued increase in health insurance premiums "increases the cost of health insurance and results in fewer people who can afford insurance -- a vicious circle."
"The stakes are high both for business and for workers who do have health insurance because they bear the brunt of costs for the uninsured," Pollack said (Reuters/New York Post, 6/9). He added, "What we're seeing is a reduction in coverage in the private sector, with more employers feeling that the costs are unbearable." Pollack said that undocumented immigrants represent only a "tiny" percentage of uninsured U.S. residents.
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said that one of every four uninsured U.S. residents is a legal or undocumented immigrant, adding that immigration is "the major factor for the underlying growth in the uninsured population" (Washington Times, 6/9).
Pollack said that the "bottom-line message is that these costs of the uninsured certainly affect everyone." He also said that the report highlights the importance of Medicaid and that reductions in services could result in an increase in the uninsured population and lead to higher costs (CQ HealthBeat, 6/8).
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), who attended the news conference to release the report, said that lawmakers should consider the results when they seek to reduce Medicaid costs. "Not making matters worse has to be the starting point," she said (CongressDaily, 6/8). Sebelius also asked business leaders to participate in Medicaid reform discussions at the state and national level.
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said that he has begun to draft bipartisan legislation with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would provide catastrophic coverage for uninsured U.S. residents (CQ HealthBeat, 6/8).
The report is available online. WAMU's "The Diane Rehm Show," an NPR-syndicated program, on Thursday is scheduled to include a discussion on proposals to reduce the number of uninsured U.S. residents. Guests on the program will include Pollack and Neil Trautwein, assistant vice president for human resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers (Rehm, "The Diane Rehm Show," WAMU, 6/9). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after the broadcast.