Report: Americans without health insurance have little money to pay hospital bills
Few American families who lack health insurance have the financial assets to pay potential hospital bills, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On average, uninsured families can afford to fully pay for only about 12 percent of hospital stays that they may experience.
Bills for all types of health care that uninsured Americans are unable to pay total about $73 billion a year.
|“When the uninsured cannot afford the care they receive, that cost must be absorbed by other payers,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says.|
“One of the most enduring myths in American health care is that people without health insurance can get care with little or no problem. Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says. “The result is families going without care – or facing health care bills they can’t hope to pay. When the uninsured cannot afford the care they receive, that cost must be absorbed by other payers.”
Those “other payers” are health insurance companies, health care providers and people who do have health insurance.
About 50 million Americans have no health insurance. The report found that most uninsured Americans have hardly any savings. The median financial assets for all uninsured families add up to just $20, according to the report.
Even among higher-income families, assets are low. Half of families with income at 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($89,400 a year for a family of four in 2011) have financial assets below $4,100, the report says.
Sherry Glied, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services, says: “No family should bear the burden of being one illness or accident away from bankruptcy.”
The high cost of hospitalization means that the lack of health insurance poses a greater risk of financial catastrophe than going without auto insurance or homeowner’s insurance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Every year, nearly 2 million Americans without health insurance are hospitalized.
Although people are 50 percent more likely to be in an auto accident than to be hospitalized in a given year, the average bill for a hospital visit is more than two and a half times higher than the average loss from an auto accident.
Meanwhile, the bill for a single hospitalization is about the same as the average loss from a house fire, but a person is 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than to be the victim of a house fire.