Studies have shown the average household is a costly medical emergency away from financial ruin, and yet an estimated 84 million US adults were uninsured or underinsured in 2012, according to a survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) News.
These numbers, drawn from data compiled for the Commonwealth Fund 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey, reflect that nearly half (46 percent) of all of the working-age adults between 19 and 64 in the United States were grossly underinsured or had no coverage whatsoever to protect them from exorbitant out-of-pocket medical costs in the event they became ill or incur an accident – a trend that has carried over into 2013.
Of the 84 million, 40 million were made up of individuals with an annual income of roughly less than $14,800 (single) or $30,600 (family of four) – classifying them below the poverty level.
Based on the disheartening report, nearly 80 million did not seek medical care or fill prescriptions due to the costs being too high. Three in 10 adults said they did not visit a doctor or clinic when they had a medical problem, while more than a quarter did not fill a prescription or forwent recommended tests, treatment, and follow-up to treat chronic conditions, which included hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. One in five said they did not get needed specialist care either.
Of those who had what was considered “good” coverage, 28 percent still did not seek medical treatment because of the price. People simply cannot afford their healthcare.
Unfortunately, acquiring insurance, even less than adequate coverage, is a hefty expense in and of itself. This is especially for people who have been chronically underemployed or unemployed in recent years – whose job, when they have one, does not give enough hours to qualify for coverage. Or the costs of the medical plans – which are increasing – are just too expensive. Coverage for a household can cost some workers nearly a third of their monthly income – the equivalent of a luxury car or rent payment.
With the looming provisions of the Affordable Care Act going into effect in January 2014, which is meant to provide new insurance options for people, many employers, in an already difficult job market, are trending towards hiring workers as part-time or as temps, but still working them a significant number of hours – cutting employees off just shy of having to offer benefits.
A survey performed earlier in the year, from consulting company Mercer, found 51 percent of employers did not provide health coverage to employees working 30 or more hours a week and indicated they’d change their workforce strategy so fewer workers would be eligible for benefits. Some big-name companies – including Wendy’s, and Olive Garden and Red Lobster operator Darden Restaurants – gained attention over the past year by cutting workers’ hours or eliminating full-time employment in response to Obamacare. Regal Cinemas, which operates more than 530 theaters in 38 states, said it too would be cutting back on hours for non-salaried workers in response to the Affordable Care Act.
With confusion surrounding the implementation and possible impact of Obamacare, many of these businesses state they are unable to absorb the additional cost (based on projections) of providing coverage to their employees, instead passing that cost along to their customers or cutting jobs altogether.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the combination of new subsidies for health insurance and consumer protections will enable 14 million uninsured people to gain coverage in 2014, and 27 million by 2021.
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