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The secret cost of health care


AP Photo/Jason Reed

President Barack Obama's speech on health care reform briefly mentioned a fact that should have most Americans outraged:

"And it's why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it -- about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else's emergency room and charitable care"

Most hospitals and insurance companies do not want you to know that you are footing the bill for those who cannot.  Have you ever seen a bill from an emergency room or hospital visit?  Would you understand it, if you did see it?  According to a Good Morning America clip that aired in April, the answer is that you most likely would not.  And whether intentional or not, hospitals are charging you or your insurance company outrageous prices to prevent their own losses.

For people with insurance, inflated prices may not appear to be a problem. However, it is.  High charges directly affect the premiums each person pays, as well as copayments, level of coverage, and quality of care.  The mentality is somebody has to pay and it is not going to be the shareholders.  The degree of loss is spread out amongst the members who may or may not notice.  And if you do notice, there is little you are able to do about it.

In addition to your rising insurance costs, you are also paying for the uninsured in another way: your taxes.  Federal and state funds finance medicaid and medicare. There are also different types of subsidies from both federal and state governments for hospitals.  Every time you pay your taxes, you are paying for health care, again.

Finally, you pay for health care each time you purchase something.  The price of all products is based on the cost to make it.  Some of that cost comes from the need to provide health insurance for employees.  Since the share holders, again, are not willing to lose money, product prices go up. And you pay.

So what is the answer? It's hard to know for sure, since no one really knows the true cost of care.  When all the pieces of the puzzle are put together, $1,000/person is probably a serious underestimate.  The time has come for us to dissect and restructure this mess that has gone unchecked for too long. 

President Obama captured the passion all Americans should feel in the summation of his speech:

"We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test."


  • Carolyn 5 years ago

    What floored me about going to the emergency room (I'm insured) is that not only did I receive a bill from the emergency room, but from the supervising doctor as well. Aren't the doctors employed by and paid by the hospitals? This doctor came in, looked at the stitch work the resident(?)did, stayed less than five minutes and sent me a ridiculous bill. The doctor who stitched me up told me I could come back and get the stitches taken out for nothing - yeah right! When I returned after the Thanksgiving holiday the cut had become infected and they charged me again to take care of it.