There’s a reason health care has turned into a major issue
for the 2018 campaign season: Americans are fearful.
The rising cost of health insurance and efforts by
Republicans in Washington to undercut protections for pre-existing conditions
and the Affordable Care Act writ large have left many financially insecure and
worried over what the future may bring.
In millions of American households, people in need of medical
care avoided a doctor visit in the past year because they worried was too
costly, according to a new Bankrate survey.
Meanwhile, 41 percent of those who sought out care were
surprised at how expensive their bill turned out to be. More than half of
respondents are worried they won’t have access to affordable coverage in the
years to come.
And women feel this pressure more acutely than men.
America’s health care plight
As summer gives way to the midterm elections in November,
expect health insurance to remain on the top of voters’ minds.
Twenty-two percent of respondents said they, or someone in
their home, went without necessary medical attention because they were
concerned with the cost.
And the concern didn’t vary too greatly depending on how
the person was insured. A sixth of respondents with Medicare or Medicaid said
they eschewed care, compared with 29 percent of those who bought insurance in
the private market, such as through a public exchange set up by the Affordable
Care Act, and 22 percent of workers with employer-sponsored insurance.
Three in 10 of those without insurance avoided going to the
doctor when they needed to, although just 8 percent of total respondents said
they did not have insurance.
These results fall in line with other surveys that
illuminate the precarious financial situation in which many adults find
in 10 Americans, for instance, would pay for an unexpected $1,000 emergency
expense in cash, compared with 36 percent who would venture into debt through
one means or another.
Consumers shouldering more of the load
This uncertainty is compounded by an ongoing trend of
employer-sponsored insurance passing more costs onto patients. Four in 5
workers have a plan with a deductible, the amount you pay before your insurer
picks up the tab, with the average for a single person $1,505, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than half
of workers had a deductible greater than $1,000 last year, compared with a
third in 2012.
Part of this rise can be traced to the rapid adoption of
high-deductible plans with a health savings account attached. Nearly a
fifth of workers are covered by this type of plan, according to Kaiser, with an
average deductible of $2,433 for single coverage.
Studies have shown that people, especially men, who
face high out-of-pocket costs often forgo treatment for serious issues, like
One feature of pretty much every one of the myriad
Republican plans debated last year increased the availability
of high-deductible plans.
According to Bankrate’s survey, 54 percent claim to be
either very or somewhat worried they might not have affordable health insurance
in the future, while just a sixth of respondents are not worried at all.
One explanation may be that health insurance doesn’t stop a
medical bill from giving you a fright; in fact, you may be more susceptible.
More than a third of Americans with insurance through the
workplace, and 36 percent of private insurance holders, were surprised by the
expense of a medical bill, compared with just a fifth of those without
insurance at all.
What’s going on? An insured person, who pays a monthly
premium, may have a sense that their insurer will pick up a greater share of
the bill, while the uninsured knows he is on his own.
Women feel more financial pressure
Bankrate’s survey also finds that women are more concerned
than men over health insurance and the associated costs.
quarter of women (compared with 18 percent of men) say they or a relative
avoided the doctor because over cost concerns.
percent of women (compared with 35 percent of men) paid a bill that turned
out to be more expensive than they thought.
percent of women (compared with 51 percent of men) are worried they might
not have affordable insurance in the future.
Women have been particularly vulnerable to GOP efforts to
repeal and replace Obamacare with a piece of legislation that may not cover
A 2016 Kaiser report found 30 percent of adult women
under age 65 had a pre-existing condition that might give an insurer reason to
decline coverage if we reverted to a pre-Affordable Care Act world. Among men,
24 percent were in the same situation. The report posited these were low
estimates given limited data.
Ninety-one percent of respondents in a June Kaiser poll said it was very or somewhat
important to bar insurers from denying coverage because of a person’s medical
history, and 89 percent said insurers shouldn’t be allowed to charge people
more because they were sick.
The Trump administration’s decision to stop defending the law against a legal challenge
that claims these regulations are unconstitutional may only add to these
What you can do
Build up an emergency fund in a high-yielding savings
account. You’ll want enough to cover six months’ worth of emergency
expenses, which is in the ballpark
of $20,000 for an average family. Average income households aren’t anywhere
close, holding a median amount of less than $4,000, per Federal
So, this will take some doing. Start slow, shoot for one
week’s worth and then go from there. Automate a portion of your paycheck into a
savings account you don’t touch. Toss in any extra cash that comes your way,
from a bonus to a tax refund.
You can’t stop the rising deductibles and premiums, but you
can be a more informed consumer.
Take advantage of free preventive services, which most
plans must cover. These
services range from diet counseling for adults at risk for a chronic
disease to interventions to thwart your tobacco addiction.
Make sure all of your providers, from your primary care
physician to specialists to your ER, are in your plan’s network. And when your
doctor prescribes a medication, don’t be afraid to ask how much it costs, and
if it’s too pricey, ask if for a cheaper generic alternative.
The fractured and confusing nature of America’s health care
system requires patients to be on the offensive.
here for the original article from Bank Rate.