It is surprising to note that in the United States, there are still many people who do not have health insurance. According to statistics, this figure amounts to 44 million. Taking care of them is one of the major problems faced by the healthcare industry today. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed because a large number of uninsured people adversely affect the well-being not just those who are uninsured, but also the rest of the country (Hadley & Holahan, 2004).
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Who are the Uninsured?
Less than 15% of the uninsured are children. Majority of the uninsured come from working families who cannot afford to pay for health insurance. These include households with full-time and part-time workers, the elderly, the African Americans and the Hispanics.
Extent of the problem
As mentioned earlier, 44 million Americans are currently uninsured and 60 million are uninsured for either all or part of the year. This number is still increasing. This has serious consequences for them in terms of health and finances. Those who are uninsured are usually unable to pay their hospital bills. In many cases this leads to bankruptcy (Hadley & Holahan, 2004).
The greater the number of the uninsured, the more the concerned nation suffers. This is because much of the healthcare provided to the uninsured is not fully paid for. About one third of all the expenditure incurred on the uninsured is of this nature. Annual expenditure on the uninsured was calculated to be $125 billion according to Hadley & Holahan in the article “The Cost of Care for the Uninsured: What Do We Spend, Who Pays, and What Would Full Coverage Add to Medical Spending?”. Older people are more likely to be uninsured than younger people. The former have higher medical bills and hence prove to be a financial burden on society.
Impact of the problem
Those who are not insured incur medical bills that they cannot afford to pay for. Most of the time, the hospitals have to pay for such patients, unless they are state owned hospitals in which case the government pays for them. This worsens the financial challenges already faced by hospitals and their management. It reduces liquidity and money left for reinvestment to improve services. When the government is required to pay for the uninsured, it can only do so to a certain extent because it has a limit to the subsidy it can allot to healthcare expenditures (Hadley & Holahan, 2004).
Even with all the compensation received from the government and hospitals, the uninsured only get just above half of the benefits enjoyed by those who have full insurance. Therefore not having healthcare insurance is detrimental to the uninsured too. Research has shown that those having medical insurance are healthier and live longer due to easy access to medical and healthcare than those not having insurance (Hadley & Holahan, 2004). Those who are not insured delay treatment and hence by the time they approach help, it is usually too late. Hence they have shorter lives and worse health conditions (Johnson, 2009).
There are many organizations that pay for those who are uninsured or living on Medicaid. Such organizations include emergency centers, charitable organizations, government departments and so on.
How can this problem be solved?
Providing medical insurance to all those who are without it currently is a long process and will take a few years to overcome. It requires the support of the government, local hospitals, and organizations that do not provide insurance to their employees to name a few.
- Byrd, W. & Clayton, L. An American Health Dilemma: Race, medicine, and health care in the United States 1900-2000. Published by Routledge. (2002).
- Johnson, N. & Johnson, L. The Care of the Uninsured in America. Published by Tucson. (2009).
A Web Page
- ACHE. “Top Issues Confronting Hospitals: 2008” The American College of Health Care Executives. Web.
- Hadley, J. & Holahan, J. “The Cost of Care for the Uninsured: What Do We Spend, Who Pays, and What Would Full Coverage Add to Medical Spending?” Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.
- Zieger, A. “Study: 60 percent of personal bankruptcies fueled by medical bills”. Fierce Healthcare.