Sunday, April 26, 2009
Bad Economy Hits Health Care
The nations large health insurers are losing members at a rapid rate and WellPoint, the country's largest health insurer said it lost nearly 500,000 members since December. Wellpoint analyzed the decline and said it lost to layoffs or workers otherwise opting out of employer coverage.
Kaiser estimates that of the nine million people expected to have lost employer-sponsored health coverage since December 2007, about four million of them currently are uninsured. United Health reported a 900,000 drop in the number of people enrolled since first quarter. (from Wall Street Journal)
When people get laid off, they have the option of continuing insurance for themselves and their dependents by self-paying under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). Within 30 days they must apply for COBRA and the insurance covers for 18 months. The employee (now no longer with a job) pays the entire premium plus 2%.
The President's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allows a premium reduction for anyone who was laid off between September 1,2008 and December 31, 2009. Those people can pay only 35% of the premium cost for up to 9 months. (No refunds if you have been paying the full amount).
If the company went bankrupt or discontinued health coverage, there is no COBRA available.
Hospitals and physicians are all seeing more patients without insurance of any type and elective surgery and preventive doctor visits are on the decline. COBRA insurance is extremely expensive and people without an income are often unable to pay $500 - $1200 a month for health insurance. It is not a surprise that the ranks of the uninsured are rising rapidly.
The way our nation deals with health, costs, and health insurance is not sustainable and must change.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:23 AM