What You Need to Know about Health Insurance

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This health e-letter will look at something that affects every American. In the medical world, that can mean one thing: health insurance. All the doctors’ advice in the world won’t matter much if people lack the finances to pay for their treatments. It has been a hot topic for decades, and it continues that way. A new study has said that a big group of Americans became uninsured in the last two years.

A new study estimates that nine million adults became uninsured in the past two years. That is 57% of people who had health insurance through a job they then lost. Losing a job is not uncommon now in the sputtering economy, and job losses are often compounded by the loss of health insurance.

The report says that the unemployed have great difficulty finding affordable health care. Only 25% who lost their
insurance were able to find another plan, and only 14% continued their job-based coverage through the “Consolidated
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act” (COBRA). For most, individual coverage was not a viable option. It was found that
71% of adults (19 million people) who tried to buy such coverage in the past three years found it hard to get a plan that was right for them or an affordable plan, or were turned down or charged more for an existing health condition.

The report says that 52 million U.S. adults were uninsured sometime in 2010. That is up from 38 million in 2001. Not surprisingly, the most likely were those of low or moderate incomes. It went on to find that 75 million adults didn’t get needed health care in 2010, skipping doctor visits, tests and prescriptions due to costs. This is a 60% increase from 2001, when there were 47 million people. Though uninsured adults were most likely to do so (66%), 31% of insured adults also went without health care they needed because of high costs. That was up from 21% in 2001.

People are spending out-of-pocket more and more. Nearly 50 million people spent at least 10% of their income on out-of-pockets costs and health insurance premiums in 2010. That is up from 31 million nine years ago. And about 31% of adults who were insured continued to spend 10% or more of their incomes in this way.

All is not negative, though. A silver lining: the “Affordable Care Act” has already begun to bring relief. This law is expected to be fully implemented by 2014. Then, nearly all of the 52 million uninsured adults will have access to insurance coverage through expanded Medicaid, private health plans and tax credits for the purchase of insurance.

We have a long way to go, but with health care such a lightning rod politically, ideas to make things better will never cease.