There's more to the story. Roughly one in four uninsured people in this country are eligible for Medicaid or a state Children's Health Insurance Plan (S-CHIP). In other words, if they signed up and became insured, you would be paying for their care anyway. In fact, you would probably pay more.
Again, health care numbers are so murky it's hard to know what anything really costs. Still, I take my cue from Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Staffers at Parkland actually go from patient to patient, trying to get people to enroll in Medicaid right in the emergency room. (Half the time they fail!)
The fact that Parkland goes to so much trouble suggests that the hospital gets more money from the government (meaning you, the taxpayer) for Medicaid patients than it gets for uninsured patients.
Now if you think any of this is a justification for ObamaCare, here's one more thing to consider. The taxpayer burden for insuring the uninsured under the new health reform law will be about four or five times larger than the amount we are spending on free care for the uninsured right now.
Take a family of four with an income of about $32,000. If they are uninsured and they reflect the average experience, they will generate about $4,000 in unpaid hospital bills this year. But the federal government will pay almost all of the $23,700 health insurance premium that will be needed for family to obtain Obama Care insurance in one of the new health insurance exchanges. The government will also reimburse the family for most of its out-of-pocket costs. According to one estimate, the total subsidy for this family under ObamaCare will reach $22,740.
Even if the uninsured aren't paying their own way under the current system, you will be paying much, much more for them under the new health reform law.
I'll discuss the right solution to this problem in a future column.