Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has released a report revealing that the cost of providing health care for the uninsured in Washington state has risen to more than half a billion dollars a year.
According to the latest report, the number of uninsured Washington residents has risen from 703,965 in 2002 to 748,460 in 2004. The amount this care costs the Washington health care system and the insurance-buying public has grown from $457 million to $553 million in the same time period.
“We already have universal coverage,” said Kreidler. “How? Because the uninsured do receive health care – it’s just that we all pay for their care. And they often get their care in emergency rooms – the most expensive and least effective setting. Until we do something to address the growing number of uninsured, we will continue to see our costs rise.”
The report includes a county-by-county breakdown out of the number of uninsured and the cost of uncompensated care. The numbers in this year’s report reflect an average between two sources of uninsured data, the Office of Financial Management’s Washington State Population Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The numbers differ because one survey asks if you are uninsured at that time, and the other asks if you have been uninsured during the last year. Using an average of the data provides a more accurate account of the uncompensated care costs.
“If the number of uninsured continues to rise – which it is sure to do – we will see a further deterioration of the health care system in our state,” said Kreidler. “Our system is not sustainable. The federal government’s inaction adds pressure to the states to take their own action. Some states like Massachusetts are making good progress and we have our own opportunity today to reform our health care system with the work of Gov. Gregoire and Sen. Thibadeau’s Blue Ribbon Commission.”
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