Thursday, September 25, 2008

Families continue to experience increasing health care cost strain: two major reports


A Tracking Report (No. 21, September 2008) from the Center for Health System Change shows that 57 million Americans had problems paying their medical bills in 2007, up 14 million from 2003. Of these 57 million, 42.5 million had some insurance coverage.

The report press release is here.

An employee benefits survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (Health Research & Educational Trust) found that employees are paying $3354 in premiums for family coverage, with a total cost shared with employers of $12680. The full report (“Employer Health Benefits: 2008 Annual Survey”) is here. The report offers detailed analysis of cost sharing between employers and employees.

Studies report that many patients delay medical tests and do not purchase expensive medication that they need because of cost, resulting in eventual emergency room visits.

My own experience in my own career was that family coverage tended to cost three to four times what individual coverage cost, out of pocket. One of my employers, Sperry Univac, actually adjusted the premiums to salary, charging lower paid people less, back in 1973-1974.

The findings and sources were discussed in an article on p C4 of The New York Times today by Reed Abelson, “Health Care Costs Create Rising Strain, Studies Find”.

Collection agencies sometimes have separate departments for medical collections, which require extra employee training because of HIPAA. A large percentage of personal bankruptcies result from medical bills, and unpaid bills do affect credit scores. And bills are often unpaid for a while because of inaccurate billing or disputes over coverage and referrals under managed care programs. I had a major dispute myself in 1998 which was finally resolved in my favor after surgery for a hip fracture from a convenience store accident.

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