Why is health insurance important? Having health insurance is important because it allows people to receive timely medical care, which improves their lives and health.
Some may believe that because they can always go to an emergency room, people always have access to medical care. However, even areas with well-supported safety net care do not remove access barriers to the same extent that having health insurance does.
It is estimated that uninsured adults die an additional 18,000 times per year due to a lack of coverage. Several points should be highlighted.
People without insurance receive less medical care and less timely care
In terms of dollars spent on care, uninsured people receive roughly half as much care as privately insured people, even when free care is provided by providers.
This disparity persists even after adjusting for age, income, health status, and other factors. Uninsured adults receive fewer and less timely preventive and screening services.
Uninsured pregnant women use fewer prenatal services, and uninsured children and adults are less likely to report having a regular source of care, seeing medical providers, or receiving all recommended treatment than their insured counterparts.
Shortfalls are especially noticeable in chronic conditions. Many studies, however, account for factors such as age and health status, which influence the need for care.
People without insurance have worse health outcomes
The “bottom line” for those who lack insurance is that they are sicker and more likely to pass away before their time than those who do.
On the other hand, having health insurance is linked to better outcomes in terms of health. The IOM estimated that people with certain chronic conditions have a death risk of 25% or higher, which resulted in an additional 18,000 deaths per year.
Numerous studies that account for this “reverse causation” using statistical techniques still come to the conclusion that not having health insurance leads to worse health outcomes.
The cost of not having insurance affects uninsured individuals and their families financially
Discounted medical costs that are frequently negotiated by private health plans or mandated by public programs do not benefit uninsured people.
According to various surveys, uninsured families experience medical bill problems at a rate that is double or triple that of insured families, and medical bills have been identified as a factor in at least a sixth of bankruptcies.
This issue may have been resolved thanks to a recent movement that has gained support from hospitals and public officials to lower fees for uninsured patients. On the other hand, as healthcare costs have grown quickly, affordability issues have gotten worse.
The advantages of expanding coverage outweigh the costs of additional services
Expanding coverage would improve health, increase life expectancy, reduce disability, aid in the control of communicable diseases, and boost productivity.
People who are newly insured would receive more services than they currently pay for out of pocket or receive from medical providers in the form of uncompensated care.
This is likely to increase medical spending but by less than the value of increased longevity and other benefits.
Such estimates are difficult to produce and do not address political issues such as the sources of funding for increased spending, particularly the likelihood that expansions will shift some spending from the private to the public sector.
Hospital and clinic safety-net care improves access to care but does not fully replace health insurance
According to studies using various methodologies, proximity to safety-net hospitals or clinics increases access to care.
Comparing states reveals that access to care is better where governments and private payors better support the safety net, but the improvement is less than that achieved by insurance.
Similarly, communities with a high capacity of community health clinics have better access to care than communities with a low capacity, but higher insurance coverage rates have an even greater effect on access.
However, insurance is likely to be more expensive, and it can be argued that public budgeting can control public safety-net subsidies, whereas Medicaid is a more open-ended commitment of public resources.
Support for safety-net care can be viewed as a complementary measure to insurance expansion.
Caution is advised when applying these findings
The majority of insurance benefits are estimated for coverage in general, rather than for each type of insurance.
Medicaid has been studied separately at times, and it performs worse on some measures than private coverage. One possible explanation is that enrollees frequently switch between plans; another is that Medicaid programs frequently pay lower rates to participate providers.
Private insurance coverage that differs from traditional patterns, such as limited-benefit coverage or plans with extremely high deductibles, may result in less health improvement.
Adding additional benefits to existing conventional coverage, on the other hand, will not always result in improvements of proportionate magnitude.
Insurance and access to safety-net services are not the only factors that influence health and longevity.
Reference: Bovbjerg, R. and Hadley, Jack. Why Health Insurance Is Important? www.urban.org. www.urban.org.
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