November 3, 2013
Stories this photo appears in:
Tracy Hume, a freelance writer who lives in Greeley, and a reader of Thinking About Health columns, recently sent along this provocative question. “Do ER-affiliated urgent care providers ever try to escalate patients to the ER when it is not medically necessary?” she asked. “Why? How should a consumer respond?”
It’s now the silly season for insurance rates with government agencies, consulting groups and the media all speculating about next year’s premiums. Will your insurance premiums go up or down this fall? Never before have I seen such intense interest in insurance rates, which editors have usually considered a snoozer of a story.
Pat Mallett, a self-employed businessman in Littleton, had heard a lot about Obamacare and thought that a policy available in the new state shopping exchange would offer him a better deal than the coverage he had. The policy that covered him, his wife and two teenage kids cost about $400 per month and came with a $5,000 deductible, which meant they paid cash for routine office visits and annual physicals — up to a total of $5,000 per year.
The day of reckoning is coming for the Affordable Care Act, widely called Obamacare. March 31, the day nearly every American is supposed to have health insurance, is fast approaching. And judging from the government’s February enrollment numbers, many uninsured people still have not signed up.
The Obama administration official at the New York City panel missed a chance to explain an important aspect of the law that gets to the “what’s in it for us” question.
The conversation around health care and what we pay for it is beginning to change. The realization that we pay way more than other countries for the same services is beginning to sink in. Why do Americans on average pay $8,143 for hospital and physician services for cataract surgery while the Swiss pay $2,566 and the French only $1,938? By all accounts, outcomes are similar.
The median annual household income for seniors is $34,000, and it’s just under $30,000 for people living on Social Security disability benefits. Looking at the stats another way, half of all people with Medicare live on annual incomes of $23,500 or less; one-quarter have incomes below $14,400. Both reports found that even with Medicare, high health care costs are eating up a substantial portion of those incomes as Medicare beneficiaries know all too well.
Buying health insurance is tough enough for anyone. It’s hard to slog through the terminology. You have to ponder the unknowns about next year’s illnesses and make your best guess about the coverage you’ll need.
Because so much of the national discussion lately has focused on health, the Affordable Care Act and its troubles, you might think that health insurance is all that matters when it comes to making people healthy. It isn’t. That good health is more than health care was a point I heard many times on my recent Fulbright fellowship visit to Canada, and it’s a topic we don’t talk much about in the U.S.
Because so much of the national discussion lately has centered on health, the Affordable Care Act and its troubles, you might think that health insurance is all that matters when it comes to making people healthy. It isn’t. That good health is more than health care was a point I heard many times on my recent Fulbright fellowship visit to Canada, and it’s a topic we don’t talk much about in the U.S.
After recently reviewing options for next year’s Medicare coverage, it’s important to understand how Medicare fits with the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. With all the media attention focused on shoppers in the individual market and their troubles navigating the government’s website, it’s no wonder seniors want to know if they have to sign up somewhere to keep getting their Medicare benefits. Do they have to shop in the exchanges? What happens to their premiums?
Buying health insurance is not fun. But if you make the wrong decision, it could cost you, so it pays to think carefully about the policy you buy in the state shopping exchange.