You might think you don’t have to worry about paying for medical care if you have health insurance. But you would be wrong.
Thus begins Consumer Reports’ series on America’s health-care crisis. The initial installment, “Are you really covered?” details the findings of their exclusive national survey of working adults:
•29 percent of people who had health insurance were “underinsured.”
•49 percent overall, and 43 percent with insurance, were unprepared to cope with a medical emergency.
•20 percent were so disappointed with their HMO or PPO they wanted to switch plans.
•16 percent had no health plan at all.
A growing number of Americans are watching their premiums go up and benefits go down. According to the Consumer Reports series, “Between 2001 and 2005, the percentage of middle-income families — those who earn between $40,000 and $80,000 for a family of four — who had job-based health coverage dropped 4 percentage points. Half lost benefits because their employers dropped health insurance altogether or quit offering dependent coverage. But 15 percent gave up their employer-based insurance because they could no longer afford the premiums.”
When it comes to health care, more is not necessarily better. But more is what patients tend to get. While America’s health system has achieved important gains against major diseases, it has also encouraged the overuse of costly treatments. The system pays the vast majority of doctors and hospitals on a piecework basis called “fee for service.” The more services they provide — a blood test, surgery, an MRI or CT scan — the more money they make.
Judges said “with its trademark authoritative attention to detail, Consumer Reports has provided an excellent in-depth assessment of one of the most critical issues facing Americans in this presidential election year: the health insurance crisis.”