DC Health Advisory Group: US Needs Universal Care

January 14, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Washington, DC-based research group, which advises Congress and federal officials about health issues, has called for universal health care in the US by 2010.

The Institute of Medicine said in a statement that taxpayers are actually shelling out more to take care of the 43 million uninsured Americans than they would under a national health program. Reuters reported. “Tax dollars paid for an estimated 85% of the roughly $35 billion in unreimbursed medical care for the uninsured in 2001,” the group said.

Not only that, but 18,000 uninsured people died annually, the group said. “Uninsured Americans get about half the medical care of those with health insurance,” it added. “As a result, they tend to be sicker and die sooner.”

It said also that some hospitals had closed because of the burden of having to treat very sick people for free, leaving some communities underserved. “The United States loses the equivalent of $65 billion to $130 billion annually as a result of the poor health and early deaths of uninsured adults,” the institute said.

The institute, one of the National Academies of Sciences, confessed it was releasing the report in an attempt to influence the November elections. “This report appears at the beginning of an election year,” institute president Harvey Fineberg told a news conference. He said he hoped health insurance would be a major national issue. “This report … is our contribution to a reinvigorated discussion,” he said.

Since 1994, when then-President Bill Clinton comprehensive health care initiative collapsed in Congress, lawmakers have adopted a piecemeal approach to the problem of the uninsured, creating programs to expand coverage for children or make it easier for people to stay insured when they switch jobs.

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