The High Cost of Living Uninsured

en01.JPG (14923 bytes)      As our industry works diligently to gain fair reimbursement for important new diagnostic tests that will move health care forward, it’s important not to lose sight of the greatest cost our system must ultimately bear: those left behind with no insurance, for whom we pay a much higher price in the end.

     A new study from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Care Without Coverage: Too Little, Too Late, shows the dramatically detrimental effect that lack of access to care, from lack of coverage, has on people’s health. There are 30 million uninsured working-age adults in America who receive less adequate care in chronic as well as acute situations, and they are sicker and die sooner. Many are poor, but many are also simply poorly covered.

     The uninsured go without care that meets professionally recommended standards for managing chronic diseases. They receive less frequent or no screening for cancer and heart disease. And whether it’s a coronary or a car accident that lands a victim in the hospital, she or he has a greater chance of dying there or shortly thereafter without insurance.

     Some statistics from the report are almost unimaginable. For example, 25 percent of people with diabetes go without a checkup for two years if they have been uninsured for a year or more. As critical as we know it is to hospitals to capture point of care billing for glucose monitoring, this statistic drives home the cost of the unbillable, which we will see more often than we should in lost vision, lost limbs, even lost lives.

     Across the health care industry today we recognize that patients have an expanding role in health awareness, education and managing their own and their loved ones’ care. Still, nothing can replace access to a regular medical provider. The insured, it turns out, are more likely to receive even those preventive services that are not covered by their plans — because they have someone looking out for their health.

     The full IOM study is available at

Ellen Blaine