Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Like many others, I spend some time during the holiday season to reflect on the past year, what has happened, who has come and gone in my life and what I am thankful for. Of course, I think of my family, friends, and canine companions first. I’m also grateful for steady and rewarding employment, a roof over my head, warm radiators and food on the table. There are also the trivial things; coffee, heated seats in the car on a cold morning, my awesome neighborhood weekend farmers market, and “words with friends.” But I’ve never thought to be thankful for one really important thing I am so lucky to have, my health insurance.
Before the Affordable Care Act, it was estimated that somewhere between 46 and 50 million people in the United States were without health insurance. Through various means, the ACA hopes to give access to health insurance to 30 million of those individuals by 2020.
I have always had employer sponsored health insurance. Sure, the premiums have gone up over the years, but I pay very little out of pocket for my insurance or for my out of pocket expenses. I have a great relationship with my primary care provider and luckily I’ve had few medical needs requiring ongoing medical attention.
I’ve also seen the opposite of this in my clinical practice. And while the goal of the ACA is to improve access to health insurance for millions of Americans who didn’t have it before, the ACA does not address the new insurance conundrum we have created; the plague of being underinsured. Those who find themselves underinsured usually have no idea what their out of pocket responsibilities are until they are knee deep in medical bills. They are often socked by large deductibles and cost sharing responsibilities that take them by surprise as they have never read the fine print about their plan. They simply chose the cheapest plan available and roll the dice. ;As a result, medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcies in the US; and a majority of individuals declaring bankruptcy as a result of medical debt are insured.
It’s time to start talking about the impact of medical costs on the consumer as well as this new “donut hole” of underinsurance. In order to have informed and productive communications about our health insurance coverage, we need to be informed about the coverage our plan(s) offer, our financial responsibilities and resources and options for assistance. Don’t forget this year’s upcoming deadlines:
- Medicare open enrollment ends DECEMBER 7th!
- Healthcare.gov open enrollment runs through February 15, 2015; however if you want to have active coverage for January 1, 2015 you need to purchase your plan by December 15th!
So, as you sit down around the table for your holiday meals, I challenge you to think about getting organized, educated and informed about your own health insurance coverage. Make it your New Year’s resolution! OncoLink has some great tools to help you with this:
Use our “My Insurance Information” form to organize your health insurance plan information in one location. Give a copy of this form and your insurance cards to your care providers.
The Cancer Insurance Checklist, the product of a collaboration of many cancer service organizations aims to help you compare plans offered through the healthcare marketplace (healthcare.gov).
I am also grateful to OncoLink for encouraging me to share my knowledge about health insurance with patients, caregivers and health care providers. Remember my mantra: get educated, engaged and empowered!