The Economic Costs of the Uninsured: Implications for Business and Government

EBRI Policy Forum Proceedings, 2000
ISBN 0-86643-096-2
Paperback, 154 pp.
PDF, 846 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, © 2000


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Executive Summary

Employers in both the private and public sectors are the dominant source of health insurance for nonelderly individuals in the Untied States, providing coverage for nearly two-thirds of this under-age-65 population in 1998. But for more than a decade the proportion of nonelderly Americans without health insurance has been steadily creeping up. Today, some 44 million people in the United States—18.4 percent of those under 65—do not have insurance coverage to pay for their health care.

It is widely recognized that people without health insurance still receive health care. The uninsured are not staying out of the health care system; rather, they are receiving higher-cost medical care (through emergency room visits), and they are forcing others to pay for their health care.

Increasingly, the uninsured are being viewed as a challenge to and criticism of the employment-based health care system in this country—not just because the ranks of the uninsured are growing but also because roughly 85 percent of the 44 million uninsured Americans are in a family with a working adult. As a result, many critics see the employment-based health insurance system as a failure, and are calling for it to be replaced with an individual-based system or universal-coverage government mandate.

Should employers be concerned about the uninsured population? Are there adverse consequences to driving employers out of the health care delivery system? Is there a link between health insurance and the health of the population, productivity, and economic output? What are the private and public sectors doing to increase access to health insurance coverage?

Policymakers, leading thinkers on benefits, employers, and labor representatives examined these questions during the May 3, 2000, policy forum on "The Economic Costs of the Uninsured," sponsored by Employee Benefit Research Institute Education and Research Fund (EBRI-ERF). The papers contained in this book, based on the policy forum's proceedings, explore those questions, and illustrate some innovative private- and public-sector responses.

The Economic Cost of the Uninsured: Implications for Business and Government provides an in-depth look at current thinking on the uninsured and how new thinking is forcing a new look at the business and social costs resulting from the growing ranks of the uninsured.