The largest group of uninsured adults in America continues to be young people. Some are underemployed and get no benefits from their employer; more and more are jobless as the economy becomes increasingly unwelcoming to newly minted graduates. These are tough times. But why are the poor paying higher prices for healthcare than anyone else?
It's a perfect storm, really. The uninsured are more likely to be poor and unemployed, and no third party pays for even a portion of their medical bills. But the sickest part is that they actually pay much higher prices for care.
Hospitals and doctors often have astronomical sticker prices, yet those with insurance—of any kind—automatically receive a pre-negotiated discount before their benefits even kick in. Not true for the uninsured who walk in off the street. According to a study published in Health Affairs, nearly half of personal bankruptcies were the result of medical bills.
It's probably true that the health care many of us get from our employer would be difficult to afford on our own. But there are alternatives.
First, avoid listening to the drumbeat that insurance is always out of reach. Some insurance is still affordable, especially for young people. Residents of many states can get high-deductible insurance for as low as $50 per month. Sure, you’re responsible for the first several thousand dollars in care, but subscribers benefit from the massive discounts from pre-negotiated rates and therefore, these plans reduce the likelihood of financial collapse.
Congress tried to encourage these plans by creating Health Savings Accounts in 2004. Unfortunately, these accounts have disproportionately helped upper income people find a tax shelter and have done little to expand access, according to the GAO.
Until we make some hard choices on health care reform, we can’t let our bankruptcy laws serve as a cover for our archaic insurance system. Encourage those facing a tough situation to check out ehealthinsurance.com or other comparison sites to find an affordable plan. Let’s not let each other face more risk of ruin as we weather an already violent storm.