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Cost of health insurance leads many to consider changing coverage

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Brian Stentz
Cost of health insurance leads many to consider changing coverage
Cost of health insurance leads many to consider changing coverage

Millions of Americans have seen their health insurance bills rise sharply in recent years for a number of reasons. Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: Coverage is more expensive now that it has ever been, and many are forced to make tough financial decisions around their health care. As a consequence, many now seem open to the idea that some aspects of their coverage may be stripped away, but they generally want protections.

Many consumers now feel that as health insurance changes, there are some things that should be covered by all plans regardless, according to a new poll from Agile Health Insurance. For instance, 57 percent of people say their health insurance benefits should include covering the cost of lab tests, hospitalization and emergency care, while 56 percent say it should include visits to doctors and specialists. Further, 54 percent believe prescription drug coverage should be included in these plans as well. Finally, 50 percent wanted preventive care and wellness programs included, and 45 percent want maternity and newborn care mixed in as well.

Rising costs for coverage and prescriptions has many Americans concerned.Rising costs for coverage and prescriptions has many Americans concerned.

Contending with rising costs
These issues tend to be on people's minds these days because of the ways in which health insurance costs are on the rise, even for those who enrolled in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's exchanges, the report said. Indeed, ACA premiums are up about 25 percent nationwide for the 2017 enrollment period, pushing unsubsidized premiums for enrollees well past $400 per month, which can be difficult for anyone to afford.

"In a perfect world, everyone could afford soup-to-nuts health insurance," said Sam Gibbs, executive director of Agile. "The reality is millions of Americans buy health insurance without any financial assistance from employers or federal subsidies and find Obamacare premiums unaffordable."

People more aware of the problem
In addition, people are also generally cognizant about just how much health insurance premiums are rising and how that will affect them, according to new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In all, 61 percent of respondents said they closely followed the stories - which started back in June - about how health insurance premiums were on the rise nationwide, making it one of the most followed health-related stories of the year. Only stories about unsafe water in Flint, Michigan (which dominated the news cycle early in the year), Republicans announcing plans to repeal the ACA more recently and the Zika virus outbreak were better-known.

Along similar lines, 77 percent of those polled now say prescription drug prices are "unreasonable," up from 72 percent last year, the report said. More than half of all Americans are on at least one prescription, and 20 percent say they're on four or more. In the latter group, nearly 2 in 5 say cost makes it difficult to afford their drugs, and almost as many likewise say they've skipped doses, cut pills in half, or simply not filled prescriptions as a means of making ends meet.

These are issues for those in the health insurance industry to monitor closely as time goes on, because if consumers start going without coverage for any reason, the results could be quite problematic.

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