Medical bills are of course a problem for many people without insurance. But, to a surprising degree, even many people with insurance can encounter problems with paying for medical procedures, prescription drugs or hospital visits.
As a result, medical debt remains one of the most common causes of consumer bankruptcy.
Why doesn’t having health insurance provide more real protection against medical debt? To be sure, the causation on this question is complex. But much of it starts with how high the premiums and the deductibles have become in many insurance policies.
Recent research sheds some light on this. According to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, over half of all health insurance policies that are sold to individuals fall short of the standards set forth in the federal health care passed by Congress two years ago.
That law is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Experts expect that, whatever the Supreme Court decides, insurance provided through an employer will likely contain more substantial benefits than insurance plans purchased by private individuals on their own. A key feature of the law, however, would be to create a cap on how much anyone has to pay for medical bills in a given year and over a lifetime.
The research study reported in Health Affairs did not address the question of how much premiums might increase in the future. Critics of the health insurance reform law are concerned that the effect of the law may be to make insurance even less affordable than it is now.
Source: “Study shows individual health care policies fall short,” New York Times / San Antonio Express, 5-23-12