Having health insurance is important because coverage helps people get timely medical care and improves their lives and health. Some may believe that people always have access to medical care because they can always go to an emergency room. But even areas with well supported safety-net care do not remove barriers to access to the same extent as does having health insurance. “Coverage matters,” concluded the Institute of Medicine (IOM) during a recent multiyear appraisal. Indeed, the prestigious IOM estimated that lack of coverage was associated with about 18,000 extra deaths per year among uninsured adults. Several points deserve emphasis.
If you have health insurance you can:
-Go to the doctor for preventive services and get the care that you need to stay healthy and prevent serious illnesses;
-Be treated sooner if you or one of your family member get sick or diagnosed with a heart condition; and
-Avoid having the condition worsen.
Understand Your Options:
Health insurance can be confusing and overwhelming. The good news is that there are several resources that can help you understand and compare health plans:
-Summary of Benefits and Coverage: If you have a private health plan, you should get a standardized, easy-to-understand form called the Summary of Benefits and Coverage. You can use it to help you compare different insurance options. Ask your insurer for it if they don’t provide it.
-To see a sample of this short form and learn more about how it can help you, Consumer Reports magazine has developed this helpful guide.
-Glossary of Health Insurance Terms: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed a glossary of common insurance terms, such as deductible, copayments and out-of-pocket limits.
You may be able to buy coverage outside of the regular open enrollment period, such as if you:
-Have or adopt a baby, or
-Get married, or
-Move to a new state, or
-Lose your other health insurance coverage.
Better financial health, where insured people can usually access health care services at cheaper rates. Access to insurance allows consumers to take advantage of discounts negotiated by health plans with hospitals and doctors compared with paying for services on your own. Uninsured consumers who show up in the emergency room and get admitted to hospital are generally charged the full “rack rate” for care.
While cost barriers to health care have been growing in the past decade, even among insured adults, uninsured people have been more severely impacted by growing costs. This has left people without health insurance more at-risk for having high medical bills.
Health insurance boosts the link between health and wealth. The uninsured are three times more likely than the insured to be unable to pay for basic necessities because of their medical bills. Uninsured people are also more likely to use up their savings on medical care.