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

  • Markets care about money not people.

    There are other models for the US to look at: British, Scandinavian, or – where I’m from – Australian.

    But this means challenging the power of Big Pharma and the HMO’s (cost maintenance organisations). I’m not confident this can be done.

  • Rob

    Too many people are without health insurance or underinsured. THere has to be a better way!

  • Matt

    Did you see the Bunk study stating 2/3 of doctors in America want National Health Care. The doctors who did this study also conducted one in 2002 and found that the majority of doctors did not want national health care, the problem with this is that the 2 question surveys drastically differ in there 2nd question. I found this article, 60% of Physicians Surveyed Oppose Switching to a National Health Care Plan, It’s worth a read.

  • Well, Matt, that was certainly a fair and impartial article (please note the sarcasm). It is pretty difficult to credit as accurate any commenter on public opinion who begins his point with a shot at “the leftist anti-war crowd.” I think you will find that most Americans, indeed most humans, would prefer not to be at war in general, and certainly all current polls show that a solid majority of world citizens are against the Iraq war in particular.

    Similarly, in consideration of the fact that the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does NOT have some type of national health care, and that polls consistantly show that a majority of Americans WANT such a plan, one might wonder why we do not have one. Not only do we not have it, neither of the major presidential candidates is even proposing one. I heard a caller on Washington Journal (a John McCain supporter, but it could have come from either side) say “well, of course we want Universal Health Care, but we’ll never get it” (implying that it was not an issue that would affect her vote.) To which I have to ask, why not? Who is stopping us?

    The source article addressed above references two studies done five years apart, and calls the newer one “lies” because it does not reach the conclusions the author is predisposed to agree with. He doesn’t take into consideration the sea-change in public opinion on a wide variety of issues between the years 2002 and 2007. And while he may have a point that the second question was flawed in the second poll, the second question in the first poll was even more flawed. Underlining the words “paid for” [by the government] is going to have an immediate negative effect, especially to the wealthier class of Americans, more especially to a group of people whose livelyhoods rely on those payments. In fact, the “government” doesn’t pay for anything, and any educated person (such as a doctor) will know that. I’d have a hard time answering that question affirmatively myself.

    Health Insurance is not the problem. It is a failed tactic to address the problem, which is a lack of access to Health Care. I’ve explained this in a series of posts on my admittedly anti-war (and therefor, I guess, leftist) blog. The first in the series is here. However, healthcare is not a partisan problem. Everyone gets sick. Everyone dies. Everyone has to carry on when those things happen to their families and lived ones. The problem is universal, so it the solution. And we are the only country in the moder world that can’t seem to work that out.

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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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