Cost Of Treating Uninsured Up 40 Percent Since 2005
KENNETH R. GOSSELIN
June 10, 2009
The cost of hospital stays for patients without insurance has soared more than 40 percent since 2005, even though the number of uninsured people seeking hospital care declined in fiscal year 2008, according to a report from the state Office of Health Care Access.
The cost of providing hospital care for the uninsured increased to $239 million in fiscal year 2008, up 44 percent from $165 million in fiscal year 2005.
Even with fewer uninsured, costs rose because hospital charges are increasing — typically 6 percent or more a year — and those without insurance are typically older and have more chronic illnesses.
The number of uninsured people admitted for hospital care dropped 6.6 percent in fiscal year 2008 compared with the previous year, according to the state.
Cristine Vogel, commissioner of the Office of Health Care Access, said the decline is at least partially the result of more aggressive efforts to enroll the uninsured in Medicaid programs, including the expanded HUSKY health plan. HUSKY is a public program offering coverage to lower-income children and their parents.
Vogel said hospitals are becoming more active in determining whether an uninsured patient might qualify for a Medicaid program from the beginning.
"The state as well as the hospitals have been seeking out people to register," Vogel said.
Vogel said costs continue to increase because older uninsured patients are often sicker when they go to the hospital.
"The people who are being admitted may be more ill and older with a more complicated medical history," Vogel said.
According to the report, patients between the ages of 40 and 54 accounted for 28 percent of all uninsured people admitted to the hospital, the largest portion.
The report also broke down how uninsured hospital stays are distributed by race. Hispanics, about 12 percent of the state's population, account for about one quarter of uninsured hospital stays. Black people, about 10 percent of the population, represent 16 percent of the uninsured stays.
White people, about 75 percent of the population, account for 51 percent of uninsured stays. Other racial backgrounds represent 4 percent of the population and account for 9 percent of the stays.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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