The Ugly Ramifications of Health Insurance Costs




Health and Healthcare CategoryI now cringe when I see a health insurance statement. This was not always the case. Each time I receive my insurance statements they say something to the extent of:

Your doctor charged $400 and your insurance company only allows $200. This is not a bill.

I used to flinch when I’d receive these until I finally called up someone and found out that the statement was not indeed a bill. Somehow or another I never ended up having to pay any more to my doctor unless you count a random $20 here or there.

BillsAnd then this changed.

My family has a strong history of cancer and being in my early 30’s I hit the point where some preventative testing was needed. So, being 10 years younger than my dad was when he was diagnosed with cancer, I scheduled myself for a routine, in-patient exploration. With my $100 co-pay, this wasn’t a big deal.

Well, luckily for me, they didn’t find anything malignant but they did have to send in some samples for testing. And along with this came my whooping bill for $400 (give or take a few dollars). Now, I know that many people would scoff at a mere $400 but to us, that’s a chunk of change… especially when we didn’t see it coming. A small part of me wonders if I should have waited… just not had the test done right now. Apparently I’m not alone.

A recent article in BMJ, Underinsurance threatens physical and financial wellbeing of US families, discusses this very problem. According to the authors, people are struggling with healthcare costs mainly in the form of higher deductibles that are being passed on from companies who are themselves having a difficult time with the increasing costs of healthcare. (Yes, this may explain my $400 bill: my personal deductible towards my test. Strangely enough though I don’t feel any better about handing over the money.)

And the individual and collaborative results of this widespread financial burden is pronounced. Bankruptcy is one problem, albeit a big one. But there are other results of increasing health care that from a short-term perspective may not seem alarming. Issues such as individuals refusing to get suggested tests performed or decisions to stop taking prescribed medicine for a little while. And while these don’t grab your attention like the word BANKRUPTCY may, these other situations are just as dangerous and in some cases more so.

As the article mentions, universal healthcare options are on the board this presidential election year. This is good. This is a start. Because while the costs of practically everything is increasing — gas, food, entertainment — healthcare is not one of those “luxury” items that can be done away with. Or at least it shouldn’t be. But increasingly, consciously or unconsciously, medical needs are being regulated to the discretionary section of budget sheets everywhere.

Reference

Lenzer, J. (2008). Underinsurance threatens physical and financial wellbeing of US families. BMJ, 336(7658), 1399-1399. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a419

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
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