NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Uninsured Hit by Higher Hospital Bills

March 17, 2003

Most major U.S. hospitals are required to set "official" charges for their services -- but then agree to discount or ignore those charges when they are paid by big institutions. Consequently, people who don't carry health insurance are often expected to pay far more for their medical care than large insurers, health-maintenance organizations or the federal government.

  • The 41 million Americans who go without insurance tend to be young, working-class and unaware that they are being billed more than everyone else for the same services.
  • Some hospitals say they raise charges to offset overly harsh reductions in their reimbursements by HMOs, insurers and the government.
  • In many areas, hospitals have reportedly cranked up their charges far beyond the cost of providing treatment.

Although hospitals are required by law to treat all emergency patients, most uninsured patients don't pay their bills, hospital administrators say, so the higher fees help make up the slack.

Source: Lucette Lagnado, "A Young Woman, an Appendectomy, And a $19,000 Debt," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB104785140890438700-search,00.html


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