Consumers Skimping on Health Care Due to Economic Woes

Pamela D. Wilson,  CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG

Recent economic woes have found many Americans postponing health care.  For those laid off or unemployed the situation is even more serious because they lack health care insurance for even basic needs. Many small companies have never been able to afford the participation requirements in order to offer insurance to their employees or are facing the decision to remain in business or cease offering health care benefits. Over half of U.S. personal bankruptcies result from out of pocket medical expenses. Fortunately most retirees over age 65 have health insurance coverage through the government sponsored plan, Medicare.

However, in this category fall many older adults who have difficulty paying for prescription drugs. For those with chronic illness, fall is the time of year when many find themselves in the “doughnut hole” between the annual lower limit in 2013 of Headache$2,970 and the catastrophic amount of $4,750 where they must pay all prescription drug costs. Other adults are spreading prescription drug usage over longer periods of time by taking medications every other day versus daily as recommended by their physician. Some have stopped taking prescriptions.

Younger adults are postponing routine procedures and preventative treatments that have co-pays. Many self employed individuals have annual deductible plans of $5,000 or more in order to have an affordable monthly premium. Local general dental offices are seeing declines in routine cleanings and non-emergency care. Many question the long term ramifications of delaying regular health care.

If we think the current financial situation has wreaked havoc on consumers, the worsening health care situation is the next crises. We live in a country where the public demands services that are funded by taxes, yet recommendations to spur the economy include tax breaks to sway votes. Where is the long term solution?

Just as with acceptance that social security will not fund our retirement and we must save and invest if we hope to have a life after retirement, we must realize that we must take responsibility for purchasing our own health care services and insurance. Many are fortunate to have health insurance through an employer. Those not so fortunate can investigate the many individual insurance plans available for general health care and catastrophic events becoming available through the health care exchanges on October 1, 2013. In lieu of a total lack of traditional health insurance, catastrophic plans provide a stop gap for many families at a reasonable monthly rate averaging $50.

Plans such as these are available through long standing companies such as the American Family Life Insurance Company or AFLAC founded in 1955. You’ve probably seen the “duck” commercials. These plans are voluntary, have no cost to employers and can significantly benefit employees. Even for individuals with traditional health insurance voluntary plans offer valuable benefits to help individuals and families pay for daily living expenses.

How many individuals with the need to access health care due to an accident miss work for days or weeks? How many live paycheck to paycheck and are unable to pay rent or purchase groceries? It is these individuals who benefit from accident or hospitalization plans that pay living expenses for themselves and their family members. It is these individuals without health care or catastrophic insurance coverage who find themselves at risk of losing their homes or filing for bankruptcy. Americans need education about their options for health care. Americans need solutions to help themselves because government managed or provided healthcare is not a long term solution for economic stability.

© 2012, 2013 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved


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