More than 46 million Americans lack access to basic medical insurance, clogging our emergency rooms and driving up costs for those lucky enough to have coverage.Doyle has this exactly backwards. Our system is one in which the uninsured subsidize the insured.
Insurance companies negotiate discount prices with health care providers (including prices for emergency room visits) which is a perfectly rational strategy for maintaining a profitable business.
Providers, knowing that they will have to negotiate their prices with insurance companies, have an incentive to set their initial prices high so that they have room to maneuver and still cover their costs (and make a profit if they are a for-profit entity).
This drives up the initial price for all health care that is ever paid for by insurance, but insured patients do not pay the initial price. If, however, you happen to be one of the unlucky 46 million without insurance, guess which price you pay. That's right, the higher initial price-without a discount. That is not to say one couldn't try to negotiate their own discount, but this is a hit and miss prospect at best.
Through this system of distorted prices then, it is those without insurance that pay the highest prices, subsidizing those that have insurance coverage.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of ideas about what our health care system ought to look like. Whether you are an advocate of single-payer universal coverage or you think that we should just give everybody a leech, a band-aid, and wish them luck, confronting the distorted prices that are a major characteristic of the way we pay for healthcare will be absolutely necessary if we ever hope improve the system.
There is also a price distortion which results from Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates being less than provider costs. Providers then work to shift these costs on to those with private insurance and those that pay for medical care themselves (that is, the uninsured). This represents a hidden additional cost of Medicare and Medicaid. A cost that is above and beyond the payroll taxes which are collected to pay for these programs. See health care economist Uwe Reinhardt's comments on this episode of NPR's Fresh Air.