Could Transparency Be The Key To Affordable Healthcare?

By: 
Contributor

Across the country, the American healthcare system is known for its baffling pricing and confusing cost determination. Finding a price for health care in advance of a medical procedure can be infuriatingly difficult if not impossible for a majority of Americans. This has led to many across the country struggling to access proper medical care for both themselves and their loved ones. However, some state and local governments have begun looking into a possible solution to the many problems facing the healthcare system: increased transparency.

Insurance Confusion Widespread

With each private insurance company operating slightly differently and offering different plans, most people don't have a thorough grasp on how their health insurance works. This can cause miscommunication when attempting to pay for medical procedures, sometimes resulting in patients going into severe debt to pay back hospital bills. Many patients and their families are choosing to avoid medical treatment at hospitals or other medical centers, and instead, take measures into their own hands to prevent sky-high bills. More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. While the financial cost may sometimes be lower, the time invested and the quality of care can prove problematic.

Limiting Access To Care

While in theory health insurance does not impact one's ability to go to a hospital, the otherwise soaring costs have made insurance a necessity. The lack of access to care has had far-reaching impacts across the medical field, including understaffing. There are about 7.2 million open healthcare positions available in the world today because of staffing shortages. This is especially a difficulty in areas of medicine that are often seen as extraneous, despite being greatly beneficial to health. Dental care, for example, is one area of health where most Americans simply skip routine appointments because of cost. However, more people could benefit from routine dental appointments. About 20% of the population does not have an ideal bite.

Populations Affected

For those who do seek medical care at hospitals and similar facilities, or for those who don't have the luxury of choice in the matter, complicated health insurance can have devastating costs. Those with disabilities sometimes find themselves forced to make impossible decisions in order to keep their medical insurance coverage. The Americans with Disability Act provides that reasonable accommodations must be provided to individuals who have a qualifying disability, absent a hardship caused to the employer. If someone with a disability is unable to gain insurance through their employer or through another private avenue, government-subsidized options are available based on income. In theory, this is intended to ensure everyone who is most in need of medical care can access it affordably.

Unfortunately, the income stipulation for coverage can make medical coverage a problem for married couples. Couples combining their household incomes may find themselves ineligible for coverage, but still unable to afford the cost of medical care associated with disability. In some cases, couples are forced to divorce in order to retain their medical coverage. Between 40 and 50% of marriages end in divorce in the United States, and some are unfortunately due to this financial difficulty.

Transparency Plans For The Future

In order to combat the growing struggles of health care and insurance, some lawmakers are proposing plans to increase transparency in the health insurance industry. In New York, one governor has initiated the process of creating a website that will allow patients to compare healthcare costs across insurance plans and locations. While Michigan has yet to implement a similar program, doing so could potentially help some of the state's poorest residents and allow for improved access to medical care.

With upcoming elections and major political shifts in 2020, it remains to be seen how much healthcare and medical insurance will change in the near future. It's safe to say that those most in need of medical care should keep a close eye on changes and look for affordable opportunities in the near future.

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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