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Abstract

In 2004, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that 44 million individuals in the United States lacked health insurance, and the annual cost of uncompensated care for those individuals was $40.7 billion. When individuals lacking coverage for only part of the year were also included, total medical expenditures among all uninsured patients approached $125 billion. In August 2007, the Census Bureau reported even more alarming figures: The number of U.S. residents without health insurance rose by 2.2 million, to a total of 47 million, for 2006. According to the report, uninsured Americans represented 15.8% of the population.

Given the growth in the number of uninsured Americans, it is unsurprising that health care providers across the country have noted a significant increase in demand for medical services from individuals lacking coverage. Many health care providers are struggling to keep up with this growing demand, particularly as state and federal funding has not kept pace with the increase in the number of uninsured patients seeking care. As a result of this lack of funding, hospitals nationwide shoulder an enormous burden in caring for the nation's uninsured; in fact, hospitals in 2001 covered over 60% of the costs for uncompensated care incurred annually in the United States.

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