Averages and the Uninsured

A January 21 column by my dad and me states, “According to Lewin’s figures, the uninsured as a group pay 45 percent of their costs, while private charity pays another 14 percent. Yet most of the uninsured pay all of their bills themselves.”

In a January 29 letter to the Free Press, D.D. Lewis of Clifton asks, “Aren’t the two sentences mutually exclusive?” The answer is no.

Let’s use a simplified example to make the point. Let us say that there are ten people without insurance. One person charges $55 worth of health care but does not pay. Nine people charge $5 each for health care, for a total of $45, and they all pay their bills. In this case, only 45 percent of the health charges have been paid by the uninsured “as a group,” even though 90 percent of the uninsured have paid their own bills.

I have not seen a good estimate of the percent of the uninsured who pay their own bills, but I’m confident that “most” is an accurate description.