5/16/2012 8:04 PM ET|
Survival guide for the uninsured
Wondering how to pay for your next checkup? If you’re one of the many Americans living without health insurance, there may be more options for you than you know.
One out of four working-age adults in the United States experienced a period without health insurance during 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (.pdf file).
The youngest U.S. workers were the most likely to be uninsured. Among adults aged 19 to 25, 41.7% went without coverage for at least part of 2010.
The CDC said:
● More than 60 million U.S. residents of all ages lacked health insurance for at least part of the year.
● Nearly 50 million were uninsured at the time they were interviewed.
● Nearly 36 million had been uninsured for more than a year at the time of their interviews.
That's a whole lot of people exposed to catastrophic losses if they get sick or injured.
Insurance exchanges that could help more Americans find affordable health coverage and tax credits to help most of them pay for it are more than a year away -- that is, if the Supreme Court doesn't gut the health care reform law that would create them in 2014.
But some reforms that have already been implemented may help you find coverage -- or keep you from losing the health insurance you have. Even if you can't get insurance, there are ways to still get care.
Four major changes that have already happened:
The end of rescission. Insurers can no longer drop you when you get sick and start costing them real money. Before the ban, the staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce found that three large insurers rescinded almost 20,000 policies over five years, saving the companies $300 million in medical claims.
The end of lifetime caps on coverage. If you have health insurance, you don't have to worry that an illness or accident will leave you exposed to bankrupting bills because your expenses exceed a policy's limit. Before the change, 105 million Americans had policies with lifetime caps.
Young adults can get coverage through their parents. People under 26 can be added to or remain on their parents' policies. Before health care reform, insurers could remove children from their parents' policies when they turned 19. The ranks of uninsured young people have shrunk by 2.5 million people since the change, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The creation of high-risk pools. These pools, formally called pre-existing condition insurance plans, make health coverage available to people who would otherwise be uninsurable. To get coverage, an applicant:
- Must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident,
- Must have been denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition,
- And must have been uninsured for at least six months.
The pools were expected to help two million people get coverage, said Carolyn McClanahan, a doctor and certified financial planner with Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla., but they've gotten off to a very slow start. After only 22,000 people signed up, premiums were lowered by as much as 40% last May, and the federal government began offering commissions to insurance agents to sell the plans.
"Now they're paying insurance agents to talk about this," said McClanahan, who noted enrollment is now more than 56,000.
The details of the plans vary by state, but a 50-year-old living in San Francisco would pay $428 a month for a medical plan with a $1,500 deductible. In Florida, which offers three coverage options, the maximum monthly premium for a 50-year-old is $363.
You can start your search for a high-risk pool at HealthCare.gov.
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Prescriptions- Liz forgot to mention you can shop around for the lowest cost. If you do not have a Costco card you can still use the pharmacy.
Also- call your local pharmacy to see if they will "price match".
Walmart is not always cheaper- a generic script would cost me $33 at Walmart- $11 at Target. Walmart advised me they did not price match.
If you are out of options, there is one more that no one ever talks about- the Military. If you can qualify for one of the services ( especially if you have desirable civilian skills and education ) ,their family benefits package is almost as good as the Federal Government. In addition you'll get paid, free food , room and board, and education benefits when you get discharged. There are alot of people who have gone this route during the current recession. It beats being homeless or unemployed with no benefits.
By the way , I went this route. After my discharge, I went to college and got a degree, then another one. And now, I have a very successful and secure corporate career.
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