Caring for People and Saving Money: a Win-Win
Modern health care reform is a monstrous problem, and it’s one that people across the political spectrum have been wrestling with. This country is in the midst of figuring out how to handle the large volume of uninsured, working-class people whose blockage from coverage has increased the expense of our health care system for everyone. In June of 2016, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a study outlining the implications of extending health coverage.
We have to find a solution that minimizes cost but still maintains quality health care. When states are left to pay for their own programs, services for the uninsured can become quite expensive. Often times, people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, or other serious needs have been unable to obtain health coverage. This, in turn, creates the need for other state-funded programs. But states that have decided to accept additional funds from the federal government have found that there is less demand for the expensive programs which are needed to provide support to the uninsured. In addition to saving money, states are able to collect more revenue from taxes on health plans and providers.
The costs associated with the uninsured are largely due to uncompensated care. When people who don’t have health insurance become ill, they end up in the emergency department and are given a bill they will never be able to pay. In order to mitigate that unpaid bill, hospitals and insurance companies end up charging everyone else more money. So the truth is, paying for preventative care for everybody ends up preventing the extremely expensive emergency services that even a minority of people can create. Arkansas has already projected that they will have savings on health expenses through 2021 due to lower payments for uncompensated care as well as from lower costs on services for the uninsured and higher tax revenue due to larger numbers of people paying into the health care system. New Jersey will have had net savings of $353 million in 2016 and $355 million in 2017 after taking on federal funds to extend their coverage. Kentucky projects savings through at least 2021 from lower state spending on behavioral health programs, less uncompensated care, and higher tax revenue. Although Louisiana has just recently taken on federal funding, the state projects that increasing their insured population will save $677 million through 2021.
Here’s what it all comes down to: expanding health coverage has saved other states money, and it can save Tennessee money too. But we need a plan like the Three Star Health Insurance Pilot to draw the federal dollars in. This plan has a real shot to close the coverage gap and bring revenue into the state. And at the end of the day, this is all about more than just the economics: it’s about the 280,000 Tennesseans who have no way to get health insurance. It’s about making sure that people we care about don’t suffer from preventable illnesses. Our neighbors are suffering and we can help them. Let’s do it.