Writing in the SLATE Moneybox column, Daniel Gross suggests that the recently announced buyout of hospital giant HCA clearly signals the belief that universal health coverage is on its way. Businesses are cramming down benefits on the whole, including health insurance, which now covers a bit less than 60% of the employees. Government programs – Medicare, Medicaid and military – plus government workers together could total as much as 40% of the population. The number of uninsured continues to creep up. Gross also offers this analysis of HCA’s sharply rising uncollectible accounts:
The provision for doubtful accounts in the quarter was $677 million, or 10.6 percent of revenues, up from $541 million, or 8.9 percent of revenues, a year ago. In addition, HCA gave $258 million in discounts to uninsured patients, up from $184 million the year before-and the number of uninsured admissions rose by more than 10 percent. In all, HCA either gave away or wrote off $935 million, or 14.1 percent of revenues, up from $725 million, or 11.6 percent of revenues a year ago
. While the Massachusetts law may be the most progressive today, other states, including the Frist family’s home state of Tennessee, are inching into universal coverage. Universal coverage is coming. Business leaders are talking about it, as it removes an expensive and difficult management function that is never resolved. When competing with countries from the rest of the industrialized world, healthcare costs are not an issue, as they are rolled into the tax structure. It’s past time. Harry Truman was right.