How Health Care Costs and Medical Debt Impact Americans
A recent survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund reveals that health insurance coverage in the United States falls short in providing adequate care for most Americans. According to the report titled “Paying for It: How Health Care Costs and Medical Debt Are Making Americans Sicker and Poorer,” half of all working-age adults with health insurance struggle to afford necessary health care, and one-third carry medical debt.
The Impact of Inadequate Health Insurance Coverage
This report challenges the commonly held belief that health insurance in the United States guarantees affordable access to care. In fact, inadequate health insurance coverage leads to deteriorating health, increasing medical debt, and a delay or avoidance of necessary care.
Choosing the Right Health Insurance
Given these findings, it is crucial to consider the best health insurance options to avoid high health care costs and medical debt. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, offers enrollment for its plans. Open enrollment is available until December 15th, and coverage begins on January 1st for those who sign up by this date. For those enrolling by January 16th, coverage begins on February 1st.
Having health insurance is always better than not having it, even for healthy individuals. However, the survey results show that even insured and healthy Americans can fall into medical debt and skip necessary care due to cost. It is essential to find a health plan that provides adequate coverage and meets individual needs to avoid high out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, coinsurance, and cost sharing.
Making Informed Decisions
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has implemented measures to make it easier for consumers to compare health plans and choose the most suitable one. Consumers now have access to tools that summarize the total costs they can expect to pay over the course of a year, including premiums and potential out-of-pocket costs.
These improvements in plan comparison and cost estimation aim to protect consumers from unexpected health care costs. In the past, consumers would focus solely on the monthly premium without considering the potential high out-of-pocket costs associated with low-premium plans. By providing a comprehensive view of total costs, individuals can make more informed decisions and reduce the risk of accumulating medical debt.
The Role of the ACA
The survey results also challenge the notion of eliminating the ACA without a better alternative. Since its implementation in 2014, enrollment in the ACA has reached record highs. The improvements made by the Biden administration and the Democrats, such as subsidies under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the inflation reduction act of 2022, have contributed to increased enrollment.
The survey yielded several significant findings:
- 57% of insured individuals with marketplace or individual-market plans find it difficult to afford their health care.
- 51% of those with Medicare face affordability challenges.
- 45% of individuals with Medicaid struggle to afford their health care.
- 43% of those with employer coverage find it difficult to afford their health care.
Delayed or Skipped Care
- 42% of Medicare beneficiaries and 37% of individuals with marketplace or individual-market plans have delayed or skipped needed health care or prescription drugs due to cost.
- 39% of Medicaid recipients and 29% of those with employer coverage have also delayed or skipped care due to cost.
Impact on Health
- Cost-driven delays in receiving care or missed care have made 63% of Medicare beneficiaries, 61% of individuals with marketplace or individual-market plans, 60% of Medicaid recipients, and 54% of those with employer coverage sicker.
- 33% of Medicare beneficiaries and individuals with marketplace or individual-market plans, 30% of those with employer coverage, and 21% of Medicaid recipients have incurred medical debt despite having insurance coverage.
Delaying Care and Prescriptions
- 39% of individuals with marketplace or individual-market plans, 34% of those with employer coverage, 32% of Medicare beneficiaries, and 31% of Medicaid recipients have delayed or avoided care or prescriptions due to medical debt.
The survey findings highlight the urgent need to address the inadequacies of health insurance coverage in the United States. With the ACA open enrollment period ongoing, individuals have the opportunity to choose plans that offer better coverage and reduce the risk of high health care costs and medical debt. By making informed decisions and advocating for improved health insurance options, Americans can strive for better overall health and financial well-being.
Read More of this Story at healthjournalism.org – 2023-12-08 23:54:05
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