COVID-19 has taught us the importance of securing proper health insurance. Financial planners and other experts have emphasized the need for health insurance for years and many Americans have taken heed, yet some still do not prioritize purchasing adequate coverage for themselves or their families, citing expensive premiums and deductibles, a lack of access to preferred doctors, or the notion that they “never get sick.” Yet, financial hardship related to medical expenses affected almost 137.1 million Americans in 2018, according to the Journal of General and Intermedicine.
This hardship may be even greater for those without insurance who have been hospitalized over the last several weeks due to COVID-19. Budgeting for health insurance should be given as much consideration (if not more) as purchasing a vehicle, starting a mortgage on a house, or even planning a wedding.
Let’s take a moment to re-examine some pertinent reasons for buying health insurance:
Insurance companies are waiving COVID testing and even treatment in some cases.
Most, if not all, health insurance companies have decided to waive the cost for COVID-19 testing. In these cases, a member will not be charged their deductible or a copay to find out if they have the virus. Some carriers went further and stated that they will even cover treatments a member needs, like an office visit to their doctor (in person or virtually) or a trip to the emergency room. Not having coverage during this pandemic could lead to catastrophic financial losses if one is uninsured.
Avoiding general financial hardship and bankruptcy.
The 2018 statistic above estimating that nearly one-third of the country faced medical financial hardship is astounding. Further, a study from 2001 in five states found that just above 45 percent of all bankruptcies were related to a medical problem. Dylan Roby, associate professor of Health Services Administration at the University Of Maryland School Of Public Health, says “A cancer diagnosis, car accident, or even a broken leg can cost thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.”
Many Americans do not have several thousands of dollars saved up to face the challenge of even one major health incident. Even with health insurance, they would still face some high costs, but not be subject to the devastation of having no coverage at all.
Early detection of illness.
Many employer-based insurances or individual plans through the Affordable Care Act cover quite a few preventative services (often covered at 100 percent) to help members become proactive about their health. The hope here is to eliminate the fear of high costs from doctor visits and possible diagnosis of a medical issue. Pre-emptive measures taken to discover potential diseases early on can lead to better chances of successful treatment with lower costs compared to the expenses for treatment methods for advanced illnesses.
The landscape of health insurance may look drastically different after the upcoming 2020 presidential election, but right now our society may need to have a mentality shift towards health insurance, with more of us giving it a higher priority in our budgets than we once did. College students, though mostly young and healthy, will want to make sure they have health coverage through their school or individually, as this expense should be taken into account as much as tuition, books, rent, and other costs. Those looking for employment will need to give strong consideration to companies that offer group health insurances versus ones that do not. Those considering self-employment will need to evaluate the risks of purchasing individual coverage, as this market may create more out-of-pocket exposure compared to working for an employer and having group coverage.
All in all, if most of us decide to buy health insurance, collectively, we may be able to reduce some health care costs for everyone and give more access to care for those who need it, especially in these uncertain times.