Wednesday, April 04, 2007

High-cost, High-deductible health insurance, or none

Despite denials by those in power, health care has -- it seems suddenly -- become a huge problem for Americans. I know it's always been difficult for some to afford, but now even those who can/could afford it are having problems. I've mentioned before what a shock I had after taking early retirement with a reasonable, affordable health insurance plan, and having the costs skyrocket in less than a year; this year the deductible and out-of pocket limits again increased -- by 50% each. Small discounts on prescriptions don't help much when they don't apply to the deductible, either.

When did it happen that people are forced to give up preventative health care because it takes too much of their living income? I began catching up on checkups last year, and discovered that I can barely afford it: just the regular tests for a woman my age, bone density and mammograms, were nearly a thousand dollars; then a second mammogram and ultrasound were required, and a biopsy to prove what I was sure was the case: a shadow was not cancer. I just went back for the third, followup mammogram. Each time it's several hundred dollars or more out of my pocket. I'm tempted not to go back for more.

So it's discouraging to read this report, which just shows this is happening to lots of people:

Consumer Directed Healthcare: Except for the Healthy and Wealthy It’s Unwise. Harvard Medical School researchers found that:
...increasingly popular high deductible health plans are discriminatory against women, leaving them with far higher out-of-pocket health bills than men.
... For those aged 45-64, the median expenditure was $1,849 for men and $2,871 for women.
...The researchers also found that adults 45-64, those with any chronic condition (such as asthma or high blood pressure) and children taking even one medication were likely to suffer financially in high deductible plans.

And here's another story on how difficult things can become when you can't afford health insurance: At Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett reports One American's story about healthcare. Most discouraging is reading the comments to this posting from people who seem to think people who can't pay for insurance should not complain they can't afford the ensuing cost of health care.

And here's a hint on why prescription coverage is becoming so hard to get: The study of pharmaceutical companies' lobbying efforts that was reported on 60 minutes the other night, from the Center for Public Integrity, is here: Spending on Lobbying Thrives: Drug and health products industries invest $182 million to influence legislation.



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