How Your Neighbor’s Insurance Covers You

Kurt Eichenwald argues that – even if you have health insurance – if “more people in your community are uninsured, your care will be worse”:

Hospitals don’t have poverty wards; if a patient comes in the door in bad shape, they don’t do a wallet biopsy before deciding what care that person should receive—everyone at a hospital receives the same quality. But if a community has a higher number of uninsured, that means the latest and greatest technology and treatments will drive up the amounts of unreimbursed care. In essence, hospitals that provide the best, most modern, and most expensive treatments in an area with lots of uninsured will be forced to pass unsustainable amounts of cost to their prices. Insurance companies won’t pay it, local governments won’t finance it, and the hospitals will go out of business.

The only option then? Don’t provide the top-quality care to anyone—insured or not. That keeps the cost of uncompensated care down and lets the hospital stay in business.

This is not something I have just dreamed up. Repeated studies over the past decade have showed a consistent relationship between the number of uninsured in an area and the quality of care available for all residents there.