The uninsured get the worse health care. People who are uninsured received about half as much care as those who are fully insured, according to a report appearing in Monday’s online edition of Health Affairs. A person who is uninsured all year will average $1,686 in medical costs, while someone who is privately insured will average $3,915, says the report by Jack Hadley, of George Mason University, and John Holahan, Teresa Coughlin and Dawn Miller, of the Urban Institute, who analyzed figures on medical spending in people who are insured versus those who are uninsured. The uninsured pay an average of $583 (35 percent) of their costs, while the insured pay an average of $681 (17 percent), the researchers point out. “The uninsured receive a lot less care than the insured, and they pay a greater percentage of it out of pocket,” study author Hadley, a senior health services researcher at George Mason, said in a news release from the journal. “Contrary to popular myth, they are not all free riders,” he added. The researchers also estimated that the federal government pays for about three-quarters ($43 billion) of the uncompensated care bill, including roughly $18 billion in special payments to hospitals by Medicare and Medicaid; $15 billion in tax appropriations and indigent care programs by state and local governments; and almost $10 billion in spending by the Veterans Health Administration, the Indian Health Service, community health centers and similar direct-care programs, Forbes online points out. “From society’s perspective, covering the uninsured is still a good investment,” Hadley says. “Failure to act in the near term will only make it more expensive to cover the uninsured in the future, while adding to the amount of lost productivity from not insuring all Americans.”
One in four Americans struggles with health care costs. Roughly one in four Americans (24 percent) continues to struggle with health care costs, according to the latest Kaiser election 2008 tracking poll. Health care ranks as a “serious problem,” above paying for food (18 percent), problems with debt (16 percent) and paying the rent or mortgage (15 percent), and below paying for gas (37 percent) or getting a good-paying job or raise in pay (26 percent). Half of the people who were uninsured say that paying for health care is a serious concern. Members of two minority groups, Hispanics (39 percent) and African Americans (35 percent), say problems paying for care are particularly a concern.
Mercer University gets $3.1 million to fight diabetes. The National Institutes of Health awarded Dr. John Boltri, a physician at the Mercer University School of Medicine, $3.1 million for church-based diabetes-prevention and education programs. Mercer medical professors will be working with The Medical Center of Central Georgia in a five-year study that will launch next spring, said Boltri, who conducted earlier research showing that the rate of diabetes was 50 percent higher in Blacks than in Whites. “We’re going into African-American churches and doing screenings for diabetes,” said Boltri, a physician at the Family Health Center in Macon. “We’re looking to see who has pre-diabetes.” Boltri said his research started a few years ago when he was looking at ways to prevent diabetes. His studies showed a higher risk in Blacks. Working with researchers from the University of Connecticut-Hartford, Boltri and his team developed a detailed program, which will use a combination of education and religion to try to reduce the risk of the disease. The educational component involves improving diets, reducing fat, increasing physical activity and making the participants more aware of the complications diabetics face. “We’re going to ask people to keep a diary of the foods they eat and switch to lower-fat foods,” he said. Monique Davis-Smith, another researcher from Mercer’s Department of Family Medicine, said religion will also play a part in the program. “We’re going to encourage prayer as part of the program and bringing knowledge of one’s own faith [to the program],” she said. “We’re encouraging people to lean on their faith.”