Report highlights cost of inaction on health care reform


The House and Senate are in the process of passing a comprehensive plan for reforming the health care system. But regardless of what Congress does in the coming months, U.S. health care costs will continue to rise. The question is, what do we get in return for our investment?

A recently released report from the Urban Institute highlights the costs that await us — both financial and human — if health care reform fails. The Cost of Failure to Enact Health Care Reform: Implications for States said without reform, Minnesota’s uninsured rate and health care spending would continue to grow significantly in the next ten years.

The Urban Institute report analyzes how current health care policies would affect public and private insurance rates state by state, for non-elderly residents. Researchers created three scenarios using different assumptions about future unemployment rates, wage increases and health care costs. Here is what it projects if no reforms are passed:

  • Even under the best-case scenario, 34 states, including Minnesota, would have at least a 10 percent increase in the number of uninsured people by 2019.
  • By 2019, the number of uninsured Minnesotans would increase somewhere between 58,000 and 136,000.
  • In Minnesota, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) costs would increase somewhere between $2.5 billion (67 percent growth) and $4.8 billion (128 percent) by 2019.
  • Uncompensated care by Minnesota health care providers would rise between 58 and 102 percent, or as much as $705 million in the next ten years.

The Urban Institute study recognizes that health care reform would be more costly than staying the course. Reform plans are estimated at approximately $900 billion over 10 years (although current plans include provisions to pay for the reform and reduce the deficit). Yet reform would extend health care coverage to many more people, reduce uncompensated care costs and reduce spending for a large number of lower income families. The House-passed bill would extend health insurance coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans.

While reform is costly, the Urban Institute report said, “often lost in the debate are the likely changes in coverage and costs if no reform were enacted.”