Healthcare is not a dead topic. Try as some may to bury the topic and move on, too many Americans are struggling under the weight –or even fear of– high medical bills that they’ll be unable to pay off even if they carry health insurance. Wait, but wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to solve that?
A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that a quarter of Americans don’t have much confidence in their ability to pay for major, unexpected medical expenses. Those with high deductible plans, which require patients to pay a significant share of their medical bills before plan insurance kicks in to cover the remainder, were the most worried.
We might ask: Why did they choose those plans? High deductible plans carry low monthly premiums, so they eat less discretionary income of individuals and families, but the risk is high if policy holders encounter a serious health problem.
Nevertheless these plans represent a growing share of employer-sponsored coverage and of ObamaCare.
The poll found that people are responding to the hit on their wallets in ways that may not help their health:
– Nineteen percent of all privately insured adults said they did not go to the doctor when they were sick or injured, because of costs. Among those with high-deductible plans, the figure was 29 percent.
– Seventeen percent skipped a recommended test or treatment; it was 23 percent among those with high-deductible plans.
– Eighteen percent of all adults went without a physical exam or other preventive care, 24 percent among those with high-deductible plans.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said last week that part of the problem is that many consumers don't understand what they are buying when they purchase health insurance, or how to use their plan once they get their cards in the mail.
Consumers sometimes pick health insurance based on the monthly premium alone. But low-premium plans have higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. People who expect to be going to the doctor can come out ahead financially by paying higher premiums for a plan that features lower out-of-pocket costs.
Indeed, the poll showed that a majority of those with private insurance, 52 percent, would rather pay a higher premium and limit out-of-pocket costs than lower their premiums and potentially face higher out-of-pocket charges.
Many consumers said they are making financial trade-offs to pay medical bills.
So just what are they giving up to pay for healthcare costs? Forty-three percent of those with high-deductible plans cut back on entertainment compared to 33 percent overall. A quarter of those with high-deductible plans used up all or most of their savings compared to 18 percent overall and 28 percent for people with high-deductible plans cut back their contributions for retirement savings compared to 19 percent overall.
Not going to the movies or a show is an optional expense, but savings and retirement are important for the overall lifespan of an individual. When you’re young it’s less of an issue, but when you hit middle age and start looking toward your future, that is not the time to be cutting back. Are we dooming current generations to indigent futures?
And it’s not as though people are satisfied with their new plans, as the poll found signs of dissatisfaction among people who changed plans in the last year, as the president's health overhaul went into full effect. More people who switched plans said they are paying more than those who are paying less by 45 percent to 29 percent. Of those paying more, only 11 percent said they are getting higher-quality care for their dollar.
The President and his supporters were may have been well-meaning when they set out to tackle rising costs of healthcare for Americans. The problem is that the solution that developed is not much -if any- of a solution at all.
ObamaCare has not tackled the root causes of rising healthcare costs. At best it has interjected market distortions, but costs continue to rise and at worse, Americans have lost their coverage. We still need innovation and revolution in healthcare.