Government finances 3/4 of uncompensated health care in the U.S., according to Covering The Uninsured In 2008: Current Costs, Sources Of Payment, And Incremental Costs appears in the August 25th online edition of Health Affairs, the influential health policy publication. This analysis was done by a team from The Urban Institute and George Mason University.

Uncompensated care is all health care received but not paid for out-of-pocket by the uninsured. It totals $1,103 per uninsured person.

The health researchers calculate that if all uninsured people were covered, medical spending would grow by $123 billion, which equates to 5% of national health spending.

The bottom-line for the uninsured is that compared to people with full-year private coverage, those without health insurance receive less than half as much care, but they pay more than twice as much out-of-pocket: 35% vs. 17%.

Who pays for uncompensated care? It’s been often thought that private (commercial) payers subsidize most of it. But this study digs deep into MEPS and other data sources and finds that it’s the public sector that covers about 75% of all uncompensated health care. That’s about $43 billion.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The researchers writing this study admit that it’s near “impossible to develop exact estimates” of uncompensated care costs. However, it is also clear that the lion’s share of uncompensated care is paid for by public, and not private, sources.

That would be the American taxpayers via Federal Medicaid, Medicare, as well as state and local tax sources.

Thus, American citizens are already subsidizing a majority of the uninsured population’s health care costs– in a very inefficient way.

“Imagine there’s insurance. It’s easy if you try.” This musical phrase works nicely to the tune of John Lennon’s, Imagine.

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