National Healthcare, Family by Family

It's clear that President Obama has made healthcare reform a priority for this year's legislative agenda. While all the Democratic players, including Senators Kennedy, Baucus and Schumer, do not necessarily agree on the details, they are ready to deal. The Republicans seem to be stuck in an alternative universe that does not include anything close to a detailed alternative plan. So, it will be up to the health insurance companies, themselves, to counter the Democratic proposals but there is a very strong economic case for reform now, and I am talking home economics.

Families USA, a consumer healthcare advocacy group, has quantified the hidden surcharge that every family pays as part of its healthcare insurance premiums. It now stands at $1,017. This is the cost, per family, that pays for care given to the uninsured for cannot afford to pay for their care. It works like this: doctors and hospitals absorb the cost of treating the uninsured and then make up for the missing revenue by charging their paying patients more. This affects the rates charged to health insurers who, in turn, raise the rates they charge to their insured base. Both the President and Sen. Baucus are making the case for reforming healthcare, not just as a moral issue but also an economic one. With an uncompensated care cost in 2008 of$42.6 billion, everyone now has a stake in healthcare reform, whether insured or not.