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Worried about health care bills and financial ruin

Connie Prater

Anyone who thinks Americans aren’t worried about their health insurance should read the latest installment the “America’s Health-Care Crisis” series in Consumer Reports.

“Six prescriptions for change” is based on a random poll of 1,200 Americans ages 18 and older in November 2007. The poll found that 68 percent of respondents worry about a serious illness forcing them into bankruptcy.

Those findings echoed results shown in a poll of 1,004 adults conducted Jan. 18-20, 2008. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents in that survey agreed that they or a family member could face financial hardship if they experienced a serious illness.

“People aren’t fooled,” Consumer Reports senior project editor Nancy Metcalf says of their survey results. “They know when they have insecurity and they don’t. What we saw is enormous insecurity. People are one serious illness away from getting into real financial trouble.”

A September 2007 edition of the series (“Are you really covered?“) found that people 18 to 65 were putting off medical needs even though they had health insurance because the insurance they had was too expensive, didn’t adequately cover the services they needed or both. “They weren’t that much better off than people who had no health insurance at all,” Metcalf says.

Prescriptions for change
The latest installment in the series, which is published in the March 2008 print issue of Consumer Reports, offers six prescriptions for health care system reforms as outlined by poll respondents. These include:

1. Covering uninsured children.

2. Guarding consumers against financial ruin when they face major illnesses or accidents.

3. Getting insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions.

4. Having portable insurance that covers you even if you change jobs or are laid off.

5. Paying affordable premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

6. Keeping your current health insurance if you’re happy with it.

Says Metcalf: “Everything that they wanted had to do with securing health insurance.”


See related:
Special report: Do credit cards offer health care Rx?“, “Health care credit cards rise to fill insurance gap,” “15 tips for paying high medical bills

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