The Uninsured in America

Last week, there was a very interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal titled “What do We Really Know About the Uninsured?”.  This editorial was written by William Snyder, a policy adviser at the Heartland Institute.  He argues that before we revamp the entire health-care system, we need to understand what it means to be uninsured.

Mr. Snyder points to a study published in Health Affairs in November that found that 25% of uninsured were eligible for public coverage and another 20% could probably afford health coverage on their own.  This drops the “uninsured” number to about 25 million Americans.

Mr. Snyder also addresses two other common misconceptions regarding the uninsured: 1) the uninsured don’t get health care and 2) when they do, they don’t pay for it.  He cites a study by the California HealthCare Foundation that found that 50% of California’s uninsured population had received care in the last year for which they were charged and another 8% had received care for which they weren’t charged.  Only 15% of those receiving care went to the emergency room.  80% of those charged for their care paid for it and 20% were paying in installments. 

Another Health Affairs study he references states that the uninsured will receive $86 billion worth of care this year and will pay for $30 billion of it out of their own pocket.  Mr. Snyder closes his argument by stating that “providing and funding care for those who have truly fallen between the cracks should be an urgent priority”.  However, “it is more important than ever to tailor solutions so limited resources can provide the most relief possible”.

The challenges will be the same for clinics offering medication dispensing as well as for non-dispensing clinics. For clinics offering services to the insured and uninsured alike, it is important to be aware of the potential risks of an expansion of government’s role in the health-care.  Further government intervention will affect the prices you pay for pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, employees and outside services. It will also impact how you charge your patients. We will have a lot to watch as things change in 2009.

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