Find the latest episode of "The Uncertain Hour" here. Listen

Uninsured will keep health costs up

Marketplace Staff Jan 28, 2010

Uninsured will keep health costs up

Marketplace Staff Jan 28, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: Last night in the Capitol, it was, of course, the State of the Union address. After talking about little else lately, President Obama didn’t even mention health care reform until nearly half an hour into the speech. And when he did get to it, he started with a joke.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.

And also an apology.

OBAMA: I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.

From the Marketplace Health desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, Gregory Warner picks it up from there.

GREGORY WARNER: What President Obama has maybe failed to explain is what health care reform means for the average person. And why the cost of doing nothing falls on all of us.

Marsha Gold is a senior fellow at the Mathematica Institute.

MARSHA GOLD: You know, I’ve been studying health care for 35 years, and I have trouble following it!

But she says some things are clear.

GOLD: The numbers keep going up and the costs keep going up. And it doesn’t get any better.

The easiest explanation? The uninsured. According to the Congressional Budget Office, by the year 2019 there will be 54 million people in the United States without health insurance. Doctors and hospitals pass on those costs in the form of premiums and higher hospital bills.

J.B. Silvers is a professor at Case Western Reserve University.

J.B. SILVERS: That can be up to 10-20 percent of the bill that you’re paying is to cross-subsidize those people that otherwise don’t have insurance, but are still getting care.

The cost of covering the uninsured also falls on taxpayers.

Bob Atlas is a health care analyst in Washington. He says hospitals shift the cost of treating the uninsured to Medicare and Medicaid.

BOB ATLAS: When there’s more uninsured that shows up as government cost.

In the end, Atlas says taxpayers foot the bill for almost half of all health care in this country. That adds to the deficit.

ATLAS: People’s out-of-pocket premium’s going up and the deficit growing are two parts of the same story.

And that’s a story that Democrats hope to tell a lot better.

In Philadelphia, I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.