With no insurance, ‘permanent’ patients linger in hospitals

Many thousands of patients in the U.S. who lack health insurance but who need long-term care wind up lingering in hospitals for many weeks, months, or even years because the current health care system doesn’t offer workable solutions for them.

Speaking with reporter Kate Snow on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams on April 25, 2012, Ashish Jha, associate professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health, said that it’s “completely illogical” that hospitals have to spend about $2,000 a day on patients who could be cared for much more cheaply in a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility. But because the law prohibits hospitals from discharging patients without a plan in place for ongoing care—and because nursing homes and rehabs are not required to take patients without insurance—many hospitals wind up keeping these patients for long periods of time.

Ultimately, the cost of caring for such patients is passed on to all those who do pay for insurance, said Jha. “Insurance companies end up jacking up the rates for everybody,” he said.

Watch the Rock Center broadcast