NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Future of Health Care Reform

May 14, 2003

Three candidates for the 2004 Democratic Party presidential nomination have announced plans they claim will provide universal health insurance coverage. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry are the latest. Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt announced a plan last month.

Advocates of universal coverage admit that it would be expensive:

  • Universal coverage will cost serious money -- $75 billion to $100 billion a year.
  • Health care accounted for 14 percent, or $1.4 trillion, of the $10.1 trillion U.S. economy in 2001; universal coverage might add an additional one percent of gross domestic product to health spending.
  • Caring for the uninsured also costs money -- in 2001, it cost $35 billion, according to recent research.

Who are the uninsured?

  • Most uninsured are low-income, however, a third in 2001 lived in households with incomes above $50,000.
  • Some 60 percent of the uninsured in 2001 were younger than 35, including 8.5 million children and teens.
  • And four of five of the uninsured work at least part time or have a spouse or parent who works full or part time while many of the uninsured do not get adequate care, say supporters of universal coverage, and that increases health care costs in the long run. For example, a third of uninsured women in 1998 who should have gotten a mammogram did not versus only 11 percent of insured women, according to a report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured

Source: Steven Findlay, "To reform health care, buts myths," USA TODAY, May 14, 2003.

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