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Tags: obamacare | insurance | costs | medical | debt | affordable | care

Even Insured Face Crushing Medical Debt, Despite Obamacare

(Copyright DPC)

By    |   Thursday, 07 January 2016 02:23 PM

Obamacare has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by an estimated 15 million, but a new survey indicates millions are still struggling with crushing medical-bill debts, despite having insurance.

A new poll, conducted by The New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that roughly 20 percent of people under age 65 with health insurance report having problems paying their medical bills over the last year.

The findings suggest Obamacare’s primary aim of reducing the ranks of the nation’s uninsured has not resulted in lower healthcare costs or boosted the quality of care — two key goals of President Barack Obama’s signature health-reform law.

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Since the law’s passage in 2010, insurers have steadily increased health plans’ premiums and out-of-pocket payments — sums that can create a cascade of financial troubles for the many households living paycheck to paycheck, according to the pollsters.

According to the poll findings:
  • Nearly three-quarters of those who reported problems paying medical bills said they have put off  vacations, major purchases, or cut back on household spending as a result of soaring medical debt.
  • Two out of three reporting using up most or all of their savings.
  • Roughly 40 percent have taken an extra job, worked more hours, or run up credit cards to pay med bills.
Since Obamacare’s passage, healthcare and insurance costs have continued to rise, in part to pay for key elements of the reform law. That has prompted critics in Congress and elsewhere to say the Affordable Care Act is a misnomer and call for its repeal. Republican-sponsored legislation to gut Obamacare passed both branches of Congress Wednesday and is headed to the president's desk, where it faces a certain veto.

Premium increases for health plans sold through Obamacare exchanges averaged 7.5 percent last year, and are expected to rise again in 2016 in many states. In addition, more Americans who receive health benefits through their workplaces have seen steady increases in annual deductibles — out-of-pocket payments consumers must make before insurance coverage kicks in. For instance:
  • The proportion of workers with annual deductibles has risen to 80 percent — from 55 percent — over the last eight years, Kaiser reports.
  • Average deductibles have more than doubled — from $584 to $1,217 for individual coverage — in that same time.
  • The nonprofit health research organization Commonwealth Fund estimates that 40 percent of working-age adults have skipped some kind of care in the past year — including doctor visits, recommended medical tests, and drug prescriptions — because of the cost.
Insurance companies have defended the increases in insurance costs, saying they are necessary to shoulder costs for implementing new regulations imposed by the law.

Those regulations require all health policies to meet new higher standards of care, cover 10 categories of mandated “essential” health benefits, and be offered to everyone regardless of health status, age, and other factors that influence service costs.

In addition, most Obamacare enrollees have been older, sicker Americans who utilizes more health services than younger, healthier individuals, who have not signed up for health plans in sufficient numbers to keep insurance costs down.

Rising drug costs — for cancer, hepatitis C, and other conditions have also continued to soar in recent years, costing thousands of dollars a month that insurance plans may not fully cover.

“The major impact is actually a pocketbook or economic impact: their ability to pay the rent or the mortgage or buy food,” Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Times.

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Obamacare has reduced the number of uninsured Americans, but a new survey indicates millions are still struggling with crushing medical-bill debts, despite having insurance.
obamacare, insurance, costs, medical, debt, affordable, care, act, health
Thursday, 07 January 2016 02:23 PM
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