Thursday, June 01, 2006

Single Payor Losers

Employers and consumers are paying billions of dollars more a year for medical care to compensate for imbalances in the nation's health care system resulting from tight Medicare and Medicaid budgets, according to Blue Cross officials and independent actuaries.

When someone pays less than their fair share for services, other must make up the shortfall.

The study found that in 2004, the most recent year for which full data are available, hospitals in Washington State charged an additional $738 million — or 14.3 percent of their revenue — to private payers to make up for Medicare and Medicaid underpayments.

This shortfall also results in a rationing of medical services.

Then there are the uninsured . . .

Unpaid hospital bills, largely for the uninsured, are costing about $45 billion nationally a year and adding about 8.5 percent to the cost of health insurance for those who do pay, said Kenneth E. Thorpe, a health care economist at Emory University.

Hospitals across the country lost money on Medicare patients in 2003 after at least six years of declining profit margins, according to the latest report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress and federal officials.
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