A recent report from The Commonwealth Fund found that 43% of Americans do not have regular health care. The survey covered 4,272 workers between 19 and 64 from January 14 to June 5.
According to foundation, someone is “underinsured” if they were continually uninsured for the last 12 months and:
- Paid 10% or more of their household earnings on out-of-pocket costs
- The previous 12 months of out-of-pocket expenses exceeded 5% or of the total income for households below 200% of the federal poverty level
- Their deductible is at least 5% of the household income
Some lower-income respondents were twice as likely to be underinsured as those with higher incomes. However, the study found that Americans enrolled in private health care plans, like the ACA marketplace, had the highest underinsurance rates. One in four workers with employer-sponsored health coverage is underinsured because of their out-of-pocket expenses.
The report read, “Because there were an estimated 122 million working-age people in employer plans, compared to just 15 million in the individual market, there were far more underinsured people with employer coverage than with individual market insurance. The growth in the underinsured since 2010 has been driven by increasingly inadequate coverage in employer health plans.”
Significant premiums and deductibles are one reason behind this. The rate of adults whose private health care plans have $1,000-plus deductibles is twice what the number ten years ago.
The Commonwealth Fund’s vice president, Sara Collins, told Yahoo Finance, “People in employer-based plans make wage concessions in order to have benefits. Your health insurance is part of your overall compensation. So as your health care expenses go up, you’re not going to see the big increases in wages that you would otherwise see if perhaps your insurance wasn’t going up so much, costs were going up so much.”
Because of the pandemic, premiums and deductibles are sure to increase along with the cost of insurance. Collins continued, “What people are exposed to is increasing. But at the same time, their income isn’t growing as fast. They have a disincentive to get the health care that they need, and so we see that people who are underinsured or who have high deductibles are a lot less likely to get health care because of the cost that they might face.”
In the same vein, the report revealed that 35% of respondents did not fill a prescription, attend a suggested doctor’s appointment, seek a doctor when ill, or see a specialist due to the high costs. Americans with higher deductibles are more likely to avoid these expenses.
Additionally, nearly 37% said they spent their entire savings to repay their medical bills, and 40% reported their credit score fell because of their debt.
Although costs lead some to avoid treatment, others deal with the added challenge. For those who do pursue health care treatment, Collins notes, “they’re just highly exposed to the financial cost of that care. We also find that can have lingering implications financially — people using up all their savings, for example, in order to pay for their bills, or having a reduced credit card rating because of medical debt.”
54% have medical debt at or more than $2,000. Of that, 31% took on credit card debt, and 25% were unable to afford heat, rent, food, and other expenses. Moreover, 50% of uninsured US adults reported difficulties repaying medical debt, including 25% of those who didn’t qualify as underinsured due to impacted credit scores or exhausted savings.
- Belmonte, Adriana. “43% Of Working Americans Lacked Stable Health Care as Coronavirus Pandemic Spread.” Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo!, 20 Aug. 2020, finance.yahoo.com/news/americans-health-care-coronavirus-pandemic-142730691.html.