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HEALTH REFORM: More Costs of Doing Nothing

Nearly 66 million people, including many middle class families, could be uninsured a decade from now if we don't reform health care. That's the unhappy conclusion of a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)  and the Urban Institute.

We at New America have done quite a bit of work on the cost of doing nothing. The new RWJF research paints a similarly worrisome picture of rising costs burdening families, taxpayers and businesses, more uncompensated care stressing the safety net, and more Americans lacking insurance.

The researchers used three economic scenarios. Even the best case (and we are not living in 'best case' times) showed serious strains.

"This report makes clear that as battered as our health system has been in recent years, unless we take action, the worst is far from over," RWJF president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., said in a statement. "Without comprehensive health care reform, costs will continue to skyrocket, millions more will lose insurance, and the health of Americans will suffer. Congress must act quickly and decisively to make quality

Key findings:

  • Individuals and families would see health care costs dramatically increase, by 46 (best case) to 68 percent (worst case)
  • Businesses could see their health care costs double within 10 years, leading to a significant drop in the number of people getting health care insurance through their workplace.
  • Spending on government insurance programs such as Medicaid could double as enrollment surges.
  • Millions more people would be uninsured: 53 million in the best case (and some estimates are that we are already close to that) to 65.7 million in the worst case.
  • The amount of uncompensated care in the health system would increase—possibly doubling.

Hardest hit: people of moderate means. Too well off to qualify for public coverage, but not able to afford private alternatives.

So the cost of doing nothing continues to mount. Luckily there are strong signs that Congress has recognized the need to do not just something, but something big and bold.


Nothing is not an option

A "best case" of 53 million uninsured is a truly trouble prospect. As those covered by group coverage will most assuredly decline, individual health insurance will play an increasingly critical role. As you note, the impact is especially critical for the middle class, particularly small business owners, transitional workers and early retirees. We must ensure that comprehensive reform addresses the need to make coverage available and affordable for those who fall in this vast middle ground.