one percent of the uninsured have no
access to preventive care, so when
they do go to the ER, “they are most
likely going in at a time when their illness has progressed significantly and
costs more to treat,” says Lumpkin.
Hospitals have no way to recoup the
costs of treating the uninsured, so they
naturally pass on some of those costs
to their insured patients.
“We can’t afford to tackle
this problem now.” We may
be in the middle of a recession,
but as Robert Zirkelbach, spokesperson
for America’s Health Insurance Plans,
says, “the most expensive thing we
can do is nothing at all.” If we do nothing, the Congressional Budget Office
projects that our annual health costs
will soar to about $13,000 per person
in 2017, while the number of uninsured
will climb to 54 million by 2019. Already more than half of Americans say
they have cut back on health care in the
past year due to cost concerns. Roughly
one in four of us say we put off care we
needed, and one in five of us didn’t fill
a prescription. Clearly, the urgency is
greater now than ever before.
“We’ll end up with socialized medicine.” Some experts
favor a single-payer system
similar to Medicare or the health program offered to federal-government
employees. Yet all the proposals being
discussed today would build on our current system, Feder says—which means
that private insurers and the government are both likely to play roles. Says
Lumpkin: “There are many ways to
solve our health care problem, but we
will come up with a uniquely American
solution, and that solution will be a
mixed public and private solution.” ;
Karen Cheney is a Philadelphia-based
writer who specializes in money and
health care issues.
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