In the last few years, millions of Americans who never had health insurance before were able to obtain it thanks to various requirements in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But as those in the health insurance industry know full well, there's a difference between having coverage and actually using it to obtain care on a regular basis. And for many people who got their coverage as a result of the ACA, it seems to be a fairly big step.
While access to medical care at affordable prices has improved significantly since the coverage mandate aspects of the ACA went into effect, it seems that Americans with lower incomes largely aren't moving to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them, according to a report from the Connecticut Mirror. There may be many reasons for this, but one of the most important that's often cited by those who avoid medical care is that, even with the savings granted to them by having insurance, they are worried about the cost of treatment.
Other obstacles remain as well
And while even reduced costs can be significant to those with smaller incomes, the fact that they've been unfamiliar with health insurance for most of their lives - if not entirely - can also play a major role in this regard, the report said. Experts say that these people often don't know how to even go about determining which doctors they can visit, how to actually tap their insurance to help cover those costs, and so on.
Rebecca Santiago, the community healthcare nurse navigator at the Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, noted that these issues may lead to significant concerns about access to care overall for these people, the report said. They may feel as though they're being forced to buy coverage that they don't necessarily know how to use, and as such might even feel somewhat upset about the requirement, even as it's intended to improve their quality of life.
What can be done?
The good news from the ACA is that it appears to have significantly slowed the rate at which health care costs are rising nationwide over the last few years, the report said. But the question is just how much that helps low-income families, and what federal or state governments, as well as the health care and health insurance industries themselves, can do to help these people address what remain very real problems that can affect their long-term health and finances. This becomes an issue even for people with Medicaid, in a lot of instances, because some doctors just won't treat people who have that type of coverage.
The more that can be done on the part of health insurance companies, the better off both they and their patients are likely to be going forward. People who know how to properly use their coverage may eventually make more informed decisions about what their needs are, and buy plans accordingly.