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Gov't says lack of health insurance poses "financial catastrophe" risk Posted: May 10th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that the uninsured lack the financial resources necessary to pay for hospital care. According to a study by the department, those without health insurance are prepared to pay for only 12 percent of their potential hospital bills.

In a press release, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "One of the most enduring myths in American health care is that people without health insurance can get care with little or no problem. Nothing could be farther from the truth."

The study found that 30 percent of the uninsured reported having zero financial assets. Even for households at 400 percent of the federal poverty limit - $89,400 for a family of four in 2011 - half have assets less than $4,100. The government estimates the 58 percent of hospital bills are in excess of $10,000.

With so many uninsured households lacking financial resources, the HHS concludes that the lack of health insurance poses a larger financial risk than the lack of automotive or homeowner insurance. While individuals are more likely to be in a car accident than experience a medical emergency, a hospital bill averages two and a half times more than the typical loss experienced from an accident. Meanwhile, claims from house fires are comparable to an average hospital bill, but individuals are 10 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital than to experience a fire.