The High Cost Of Standing Still : Shots - Health News Health care costs a lot, but doing nothing to address it may wind up costing us even more.
NPR logo The High Cost Of Standing Still

The High Cost Of Standing Still

Health care costs may break the bank, whether we address them or not istockphoto.com hide caption

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How to pay the eye-popping cost of a major health overhaul bill is Topic A around Washington these days. Taxes on sugary soft drinks, on health insurance premiums, and on beer and wine are all under consideration.

But there is an equally alarming cost to consider: The cost of not doing anything at all.

One study from researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and published in an online version of the policy journal Health Affairs today looks at what might happen to the number of uninsured Americans if Congress does not address it this year.

It's not a pretty picture.

The model, devised by study authors Todd Gilmer and Richard Kronick, found that the number of uninsured tracks fairly closely the affordability of insurance. The more expensive health insurance becomes compared to people's incomes, the more people there are who can't buy it.

As a result, they project that by next year, in the absence of policy change, 52 million Americans will lack health insurance coverage. That's roughly 5 million more than there are now, and that projection includes a whopping 19.2 percent of the under-65 population.

Meanwhile, another update on the cost of inaction comes from the advocacy group Families USA. With the help of the number-crunching firm Milliman Inc., they looked at what's called the "hidden health tax." That's the amount that insured people pay to help offset the cost of providing free care to those who are uninsured.

That study found that in 2008, family insurance premiums were about $1,017 higher than they would otherwise have been, while individuals paid roughly $368 more to underwrite care for the uninsured.

It seems nothing about health care is cheap -- including doing nothing.