Worried about health insurance? That's common
By Jay MacDonald • Bankrate.com
Despite the health reforms of Obamacare, more than half of all Americans worry that they won't be able to afford health insurance or pay future medical bills, according to the latest Bankrate Health Insurance Pulse survey.
Among those surveyed, 55 percent said they were either very or somewhat worried that they might not have health insurance in the future. An equal percentage expressed similar concern that medical bills may one day overwhelm their finances.
•46% of those who identify themselves as Democrats are either very or somewhat worried about winding up without affordable health insurance, versus 63% of Republican respondents and 62% of independents.
•60% of women are worried about their future health insurance, compared with 50% of men.
•60% of Americans between ages 30 and 64 are very or somewhat worried that they won't have affordable health coverage at some point, versus 49% of those in other age groups
•80% of people earning $75,000 a year or more have more emergency savings than medical debt, while just 6% of these high earners say their medical debt is greater.
•44% of those making less than $30,000 per year say they have more medical debt than emergency savings, while 30% in the lowest-income group say their greater amount is emergency savings.
•34% of parents with children under 18 say they have more medical debt than emergency savings, compared with 22% of respondents without kids who say this.
Tom Baker, a professor of insurance law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, points out that a majority of working adults receive their health insurance through their employer and thus have largely been spared a direct impact from the Obama health care law. But the survey's concerned majority may partially reflect uneasiness about employer-based plans.
"It's a legitimate concern because, before the Affordable Care Act, employer-based insurance was declining; that continues today and is presently under attack," he says. "It seems plausible to me that it won't continue to exist."
"With the Affordable Care Act, anybody who now wants insurance can get it," Cusano says. "The question now becomes: 'Can I afford to use it?' When you think about people confronting out-of-pocket maximums at around $7,000 or deductibles of $5,000 for a family, that's a lot of money. You throw prescription drug copays into the mix, and I can see where you would be worried."
When respondents were asked which is larger, their emergency savings or their medical debt, the savers outnumbered the debt holders by a ratio of 2-to-1, with 51 percent in the black column versus 25 percent in the red.
Baker says those findings appear more encouraging than other recent studies.
"There is research being done on liquidity, or 'financial fragility,' where they asked people if they could come up with $2,000 to pay for a major medical bill in the next month," he says. "I think 40 percent of respondents said they either couldn't or it would be very difficult. That suggests that people are financially fragile."
During the past 12 months, survey responses about Obamacare's effect on one's own health care have been remarkably stable. This time around, 16 percent said they felt more positive about the law's personal impact than they did a year ago; 28 percent felt more negative; and 51 percent said their opinion was unchanged.
Cusano sees the relative stability of those numbers as an optimistic sign going into the fall midterm elections.
"There really hasn't been a lot of fluctuation, positive or negative, despite a lot of negative political messaging around the Affordable Care Act," he says. "If we can get ahead of some of that negative messaging and do a better job of educating consumers … I would be hopeful that consumers would say they are in a better place."
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