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Issue Brief

Who Receives Uncompensated Care?

March 4, 2008 |

Uncompensated care (UC) is health care that is delivered, but not paid for by either a patient or a third party payer. Most UC is delivered to the very ill during or after a visit to an emergency room. In 2004, UC was estimated to total $41 billion dollars.

This issue brief finds that individuals with incomes above 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or $41,300 for a family of four and people living at or below the poverty level account for two-thirds of all UC in the U.S.

Three policy solutions may be necessary to reduce UC costs:

  • More effective outreach initiatives to enroll low-income Americans who are eligible for subsidized coverage in order to minimize the number of people who are currently missed by the system.
  • Sliding scale subsidies to help make health insurance more affordable for all Americans.
  • When health insurance is affordable, a purchase requirement or “individual mandate” to address the “free rider” problem and ensure all Americans pay their share for health care.

For the full text of the issue brief, please see the PDF attached below.


Two distinct groups of people account for the majority of uncompensated care costs – those living at or below the poverty line and middle- and high-income individuals who may be able to afford health coverage.

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