Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Study: 23 pct of US adults with health coverage underinsured

Study: 23 pct of US adults with health coverage underinsured.
From the May 2015 Commonwealth Fund study

Abstract

New estimates from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2014, indicate that 23 percent of 19-to-64-year-old adults who were insured all year—or 31 million people—had such high out-of-pocket costs or deductibles relative to their incomes that they were underinsured. These estimates are statistically unchanged from 2010 and 2012, but nearly double those found in 2003 when the measure was first introduced in the survey. The share of continuously insured adults with high deductibles has tripled, rising from 3 percent in 2003 to 11 percent in 2014. Half (51%) of underinsured adults reported problems with medical bills or debt and more than two of five (44%) reported not getting needed care because of cost. Among adults who were paying off medical bills, half of underinsured adults and 41 percent of privately insured adults with high deductibles had debt loads of $4,000 or more.


BACKGROUND

The Affordable Care Act has transformed the health insurance options available to Americans who lack health benefits through a job. Numerous surveys have indicated that the law’s coverage expansions and protections have reduced the number of uninsured adults by as many as 17 million people.1

But Congress intended the Affordable Care Act to do more than expand access to insurance; it intended for the new coverage to allow people to get needed health care at an affordable cost. Accordingly, for marketplace plans, the law includes requirements like an essential health benefit package, cost-sharing subsidies for lower-income families, and out-of-pocket cost limits.2 For people covered by Medicaid, there is little or no cost-sharing in most states.

But most Americans—more than 150 million people—get their health insurance through employers.3 Prior to the Affordable Care Act, employer coverage was generally far more comprehensive than individual market coverage.4 However, premium cost pressures over the past decade have led companies to share increasing amounts of their health costs with workers, particularly in the form of higher deductibles.5

In this issue brief, we use a measure of “underinsurance” from the Commonwealth Fund’s Biennial Health Insurance Survey to examine trends from 2003 to 2014, focusing on how well health insurance protects people from medical costs. Adults in the survey are defined as underinsured if they had health insurance continuously for the proceeding 12 months but still had out-of-pocket costs or deductibles that were high relative to their incomes (see Box #1). The survey was fielded between July and December 2014. This means that we could not separately assess the effects of the Affordable Care Act on underinsurance because people who were insured all year in the survey had insurance that began before the law’s major coverage expansions and reforms went into effect. People who had new marketplace or Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act would not have had that coverage for a full 12 months, as it would have begun in January 2014 at the earliest. Similarly, people with individual market coverage who were insured all year would have spent all or part of the period in plans that did not yet reflect the consumer protections in the law.6

May 28, 2015 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Issue Brief] The Rise in Health Care Coverage and Affordability Since Health Reform Took Effect – The Commonwealth Fund

The Rise in Health Care Coverage and Affordability Since Health Reform Took Effect – The Commonwealth Fund.

From the January 2015 Issue Brief

Overview

New results from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2014, indicate that the Affordable Care Act’s subsidized insurance options and consumer protections reduced the number of uninsured working-age adults from an estimated 37 million people, or 20 percent of the population, in 2010 to 29 million, or 16 percent, by the second half of 2014. Conducted from July to December 2014, for the first time since it began in 2001, the survey finds declines in the number of people who report cost-related access problems and medical-related financial difficulties. The number of adults who did not get needed health care because of cost declined from 80 million people, or 43 percent, in 2012 to 66 million, or 36 percent, in 2014. The number of adults who reported problems paying their medical bills declined from an estimated 75 million people in 2012 to 64 million people in 2014. Read the brief.

View interactive
 

 

health insurance survey Publication Date:

January 15, 2015
Authors:
Sara R. CollinsPetra W. Rasmussen,Michelle M. DotySophie Beutel
Contact:
Sara R. Collins, Vice President, Health Care Coverage and Access, The Commonwealth Fund
E-mail: src@cmwf.org
Citation:
S. R. Collins, P. W. Rasmussen, M. M. Doty, and S. Beutel, The Rise in Health Care Coverage and Affordability Since Health Reform Took Effect, The Commonwealth Fund, January 2015.

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Parents skipping needed care for children, pediatricians say | Association of Health Care Journalists

Parents skipping needed care for children, pediatricians say | Association of Health Care Journalists.

Joseph Burns

 

Photo: Alex Prolmos via Flickr

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) discourage families from seeking primary care for their children, according to the American Association of Pediatricians. The problem is so severe that the federal government should consider limiting HDHPs to adults only, the AAP said in a policy statement published in Pediatrics.

“HDHPs discourage use of nonpreventive primary care and thus are at odds with most recommendations for improving the organization of health care, which focus on strengthening primary care,” the association said in its statement. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive services are covered in full without charge.

This is the second time in as many months that a report has shown consumers skipping needed care because of the cost. Last month, we reported that out-of-pocket health care costs force one out of every eight privately insured Americans to skip necessary medical treatment, according to the survey from the AP-NORC Center, “Privately Insured in America: Opinions on Health Care Costs and Coverage.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the survey. In a report earlier this month, “Too High a Price: Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs in the United States,” the Commonwealth Fund expressed similar concerns.

In an article about the policy statement, Alyson Sulaski Wyckoff, associate editor of Pediatrics, quoted Budd Shenkin, M.D., the lead author of the AAP’s policy statement on HDHPs, saying parents are so concerned about the cost of care that they don’t bring in their children when they should. “They’re reluctant to come in, they seek more telephone care, they’re reluctant to complete referrals, and they’re reluctant to come back for appointments to follow up on an illness,” he said.

For children with chronic conditions, foregoing care can exacerbate illnesses, said Thomas F. Long, M.D., chair of the association’s Committee on Child Health Financing. “If it’s going to cost them out-of-pocket money, they may say, ‘Well, it’s just a cold, I don’t need to see the doctor.’ And ‘just a cold, turns into ‘just pneumonia,’” he added.

The problem of delaying necessary care is one Paul Levy addressed in his blog, Not Running a Hospital, about HDHPs. “Beyond the sad impact on individual families in any given year, I fear that the economic backlash of these policies will be a deferment of needed health care treatments and a resulting future bulge of cost increases. We’re playing Whac-A-Mole here,” he wrote.

For the Commonwealth Fund, researchers found that among privately insured consumers across all income groups, low- and moderate-income adults were most likely to skip the health care they need because of high out-of-pocket costs.

It’s no surprise that adults with the lowest incomes were most likely to skip needed care, the fund reported. Among consumers earning less than $22,890 annually, 46 percent cited at least one example of skipping needed health care because of copayments or coinsurance: 28 percent did not fill a prescription; 28 percent skipped a medical test or follow-up treatment; 30 percent had a medical problem but did not see a doctor; and 24 percent did not see a specialist when needed.

When deductibles are high relative to income, consumers tend to skip care as well, and low- and moderate-income adults had the most trouble, the report showed. Consumers whose deductibles represent 5 percent or more of their income cited at least one example of skipping needed health care because of their deductible: 29 percent skipped a medical test or follow-up treatment; 27 percent had a medical problem but did not go to the doctor; 23 percent skipped a preventive care test; and 22 percent did not see a specialist despite their physician’s advice.

For an article in Modern Healthcare, Bob Herman covered this topic well. He cited the case of a woman in Indiana who was searching for a health plan on HealthCare.gov. A single, 40-year-old nonsmoker, this woman could choose from 29 plans and 24 of them were considered HDHPs, he wrote.

Under IRS rules, (PDF) an HDHP in 2015 is defined as one that has an annual deductible of at least $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family coverage and annual out-of-pocket costs that do not exceed $6,450 for individual or $12,900 for a family.

The Commonwealth Fund report showed that 13 percent of consumers with private health insurance had plans with a deductibles equivalent to 5 percent or more of their income; that figure includes 25 percent of adults with low incomes and about 20 percent of adults with moderate incomes ($11,490 to $45,960 a year for a single person).

November 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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