No, I'm NOT "ignoring" high deductibles, co-pays or narrow networks.
Over the past few days, I've posted two stories which have gotten a lot of attention: One about the 29 million Americans who are still uninsured today; the other about the 2016 average premium rate hikes.
In both cases, I've been criticized either here or via Twitter about the twin problems of high deductibles/co-pays and narrow networks. In response to the first story, people noted that the "actual" number who are uninsured is "a lot more" than 29 million because many people still can't afford the deductibles/co-pays or can't find a doctor/hospital in their network. In response to the second story, people claimed that I'm "hiding" the truth about how much policies cost for the same reasons.
My response is this: Yes, those are serious problems, and worth much discussion. In fact, just yesterday, Lydia Mitts of FamiliesUSA wrote an excellent piece over at healthinsurance.org (where I occasionally post freelance articles) about this very subject:
Why high deductibles don’t work
Rather than making consumers smarter shoppers, high deductibles are forcing many families to cut back on much-needed medical care
Recently, a number of reports have highlighted the problems many consumers face affording out-of-pocket costs for care, including close to a quarter of people with insurance. Here at Families USA, we have long been concerned that many consumers are still struggling to afford the cost of care, despite being insured.
We have been particularly concerned with the proliferation of high-deductible coverage. In 2015, close to half of workers with employer-sponsored coverage had deductibles of at least $1,000 for an individual. About the same proportion of people in marketplace coverage faced such high deductibles. This year, the average deductible for the most popular type of marketplace plans, Silver plans, comes in at over $3,000 for an individual.
Many families living to paycheck to paycheck have difficulty affording the cost of medications on their own, let alone covering thousands of dollars in medical care. For these households, high deductibles can hamper access to needed care. They can also jeopardize financial security and leave families vulnerable to medical debt.
The truth is that high deductibles don’t work for consumers or our health care system for a number of reasons.
At the same time, however, my articles are simply correcting some common misconceptions about (respectively) who those 29 million uninsured folks are and how much policy premiums have actually been going up...both of which are also well worth being written about, wouldn't you say?
Let me put it this way:
- Let's say that your old car cost $25,000, but got 40 MPG.
- Let's say that you bought a new car for $30,000, and it only gets 20 MPG.
- Let's say that multiple news stories were written claiming that your new car cost $50,000.
The fact that the mileage sucks compared to the old car is a valid issue, and is well worth mentioning...but the fact that the car DIDN'T COST $50K is ALSO worth mentioning as well.
Apparently I'm supposed to mention the deductible issue in every article. Oh, wait...I did exactly that right near the beginning of the "29 million" piece...
Now, if you want to complain that the ACA is too complicated, pads the insurance carriers's pockets, doesn't keep costs down enough and so forth, those are reasonable arguments.
...but apparently people skipped over that line.
I'm not trying to "hide" or "whitewash" anything here. High deductibles/co-pays/narrow networks ARE major issues...but does that mean that I'm never supposed to correct false reporting about the other issues in the meantime?