The problem of the uninsured in the United States has been getting worse. During 2010, some 52 million Americans went without health insurance, compared to 38 million in 2001. Seventy five million Americans skipped doctor visits all together, along with prescriptions and recommended tests or treatments in 2010 because of costs. That's up from 47 million in 2001. Among people with insurance who have had high deductibles, 31% percent skipped care due to cost.
Moreover, out-of-pocket costs continue to soar. According to a report put out by The Commonwealth Fund, 49 million working adults spent 10% or more of their income on these costs and premiums in 2010, an increase from 31 million in 2001.
The global recession has hit everyone hard coupled with rising levels of epidemics such as malaria, HIV, diabetes and cholera. In America particularly, as a healthcare debate rages on, millions of Americans who lost their jobs and their health benefits during the recession often had no way to regain affordable health coverage, leaving them and their families at risk of financial ruin.
The numbers speak for themselves. Layoffs during the recession put 57% of those who had had health insurance in a job that they lost, put them into the ranks of the millions already uninsured.
Those who lost employer based health insurance found new coverage exceedingly hard to come by. A mere 25% of these were able to find a source for health insurance, and only 14% continued their coverage through COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), which allows the employee to buy continued coverage under the employer-based health plan for a limited amount of time. COBRA, even with increased government participation, is still unaffordable for most people who have lost their job.
The Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis said:
"The report tells the story of the continuing deterioration of health care accessibility, efficiency, safety and affordability over the past decade. All this despite the fact that the United States spends more than any other country on health care already. Most recently it has failed the millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the recession and lost health benefits as well, leaving them with no place to turn for affordable health care coverage."
Three quarters of Americans who tried to purchase an individual plan, or 19 million folks, found it difficult or impossible to find a plan they could afford or that met their needs, or they were turned down or charged extra because of a pre-existing condition.
"The silver lining is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has already begun to bring relief to families. Once the new law is fully implemented, we can be confident that no future recession will have the power to strip so many Americans of their health security."
Reforms under the Affordable Care Act bring to an end some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry. These reforms will give Americans new rights and benefits, including helping more children get health coverage, ending lifetime and most annual limits on care, allowing young adults under 26 to stay on their parent's health insurance, and giving patients access to recommended preventive services without cost.
These reforms apply to all new health plans, and to many existing health plans when they are renewed. Many other new benefits of the law have taken effect, including 50% discounts on brand-name drugs for seniors in the Medicare "donut hole," and tax credits for small businesses that provide insurance to employees. More rights, protections and benefits for Americans are on the way through 2014.
For the full copy of the nearly 2,000 page Affordabe Healthcare Act, click HERE.
Source: The Commonwealth Fund Private Organization
Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.