The changing political realities in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere across the country could soon lead to many people losing the health insurance they obtained via the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's mandated exchanges. With this in mind, many within the health care industry, and those who have come to rely on such coverage to maintain regular access to the treatments they need, say any changes could lead to a concerning trend of millions of people losing their coverage in short order.
Today, about 20 percent of people who don't have insurance say they've avoided getting the treatment they need because of the costs involved, compared to only 3 percent of those who have coverage, according to an editorial from Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, published in The Washington Post. Moreover, uninsured people are three times more likely to avoid getting their prescriptions filled on a regular basis for similar reasons.
A major issue
People on both sides of the argument have criticized the health insurance available from the ACA exchanges as being too expensive for many Americans to reasonably afford, even after their premiums are subsidized. However, as the report indicated, proponents contend this is better than the alternative of recipients simply going without coverage. This is true not only because they avoid coverage when they don't have insurance, but because when they do finally seek treatment for more serious ailments, the cost of care can skyrocket. That's often the case especially when compared to what they would have faced if they'd sought treatment earlier.
"As a physician, I am not particularly concerned with battles between conservatives and liberals," Khullar wrote. "I don't care whether we use free-market principles or government programs to ensure patients get the care they need. But our current conversations are so frustrating because they overlook an essential reality I contend with everyday: People are hurting. Today. Tonight. Tomorrow and yesterday."
Consumers worried too
Meanwhile, those who rely on coverage obtained through the ACA - some 20 million of them between the exchanges and expansion of Medicaid - are likewise apprehensive about what will happen next, according to the Charlotte Observer. Indeed, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows only 20 percent of Americans now support a straight repeal of the ACA, with 28 percent only preferring a repeal if there's a replacement ready to go first. Another 47 percent outright oppose the repeal.
"Moving forward with a repeal plan without any replacement is dangerous," Brendan Riley, a health policy analyst at the NC Justice Center, told the newspaper. "There would likely be devastating effects for safety net providers, especially rural hospitals," he said. "The needs of the uninsured would still be there, and the financial strain on our health care providers would be severe."
These are important issues for those in the health insurance field to consider as the political power in Washington shifts in the weeks and months ahead. Crafting careful plans to deal with this issue regardless of what happens next will be vital to making the right moves as quickly as possible.