Sunday, July 5, 2009

Healthcare Costs Bankrupt Even Those With Health Insurance

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that "an estimated three-quarters of people who are pushed into personal bankruptcy by medical problems actually had insurance when they got sick or were injured."

This is scary. Why?

Because more than half of all bankruptcies (prior to the current economic bust) were related to healthcare expenses. You can read the report on this fact here (PDF).

If you do the math (61% of all bankruptcies involve medical expenses; 75% of medical expense bankruptcies involve people who HAD health insurance), you'll find that somewhere around 40% of all bankruptcies involve medical expenses of people who had health insurance.

"Underinsurance is the great hidden risk of the American health care system," Elizabeth Warren told the Times. She co-authored the 2007 report on healthcare bankruptcies cited above. “People do not realize they are one diagnosis away from financial collapse.”

The Times reports:
Last week, a former Cigna executive warned at a Senate hearing on health insurance that lawmakers should be careful about the role they gave private insurers in any new system, saying the companies were too prone to “confuse their customers and dump the sick.”

“The number of uninsured people has increased as more have fallen victim to deceptive marketing practices and bought what essentially is fake insurance,” Wendell Potter, the former Cigna executive, testified.
To put a human face on the issue, the Times tells the medical tale of woe of Lawrence Yurdin, a 64-year old computer specialist living in Texas. To make a long story short, Mr. Yurdin faced tens of thousands of dollars of unexpected medical expenditures if he got necessary heart procedures, even though he had health insurance coverage.

Things turned out well for Mr. Yurdin, though, the Times reports:
But as of Wednesday, his future insurance problems are largely solved: he qualifies for Medicare because he turns 65.
The "public option" in President Obama's healthcare reform package would allow working age Americans (18-64) buy into a Medicare-like program that would provide medical coverage (as does Medicare) with affordable premiums.

This is the plan that the health insurance companies (you know, the ones who deny coverage and have overhead costs that consume about 30 percent of health insurance premiums) are opposing.

There are tens of thousands — if not millions — of stories like Mr. Yurdin in America today. There are tens of thousands — if not millions — of stories involving people who cannot even afford health insurance premiums.

Recent polls show something on the order of 70% support for the public option in the country, fueled in no small part by the direct experiences individuals, families and businesses have had dealing with private, for-profit health insurance providers.

Senator Mary Landrieu has not heard from enough Louisiana residents who want this public option as a path to affordable access to care. Call her office and tell her you support the public option!

Here's a list of her in-state offices:

New Orleans Hale Boggs Federal Building
500 Poydras Street
Room 1005
New Orleans, LA 70130
Voice: (504) 589-2427
Fax:(504) 589-4023

Baton Rouge Room 326, Federal Building
707 Florida Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70801
Voice: (225) 389-0395
Fax:(225) 389-0660

Shreveport U.S. Courthouse
300 Fannin Street
Room 2240
Shreveport, LA 71101
Voice: (318) 676-3085
Fax:(318) 676-3100

Lake Charles
Hibernia Tower
One Lakeshore Drive
Suite 1260
Lake Charles, LA 70629
Voice: (337) 436-6650
Fax:(337) 439-3762
She needs to hear from you!

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