A new report reveals how a lack of health coverage, underinsurance, and unaffordable medical bills still plague millions of Americans despite healthcare reforms in recent years—and makes the latest case for improving and expanding the Medicare system to everyone in the U.S., according to progressives.
The Commonwealth Fund conducted a survey between March and July and found that due to high premiums, deductibles, and copays, 46% of U.S. adults have delayed or altogether avoided receiving healthcare in the last year.
Up to a quarter of people with chronic health problems were among those who had skipped getting the healthcare they need, with respondents saying out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs—for example, life-saving insulin for diabetes—had forced them to skip doses or not fill a prescription.
Forty-two percent of respondents have struggled to pay medical bills and 43% were found to be inadequately insured, despite the often-cited statistic that the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helped 20 million Americans gain coverage.
Nearly a quarter of adults in the country are underinsured, with health insurance that fails to provide them with affordable healthcare—charging them high monthly premiums for coverage, covering medical care only after fulfilling high deductibles, or leaving certain kinds of healthcare out of coverage.
Among the underinsured are 29% of people who had employer-sponsored healthcare plans and 44% of people who purchased coverage individually or through the healthcare marketplace that ACA set up.
“The average insurance deductible for employer health plans with single coverage is more than $1,000 ($1,434 for all covered workers in 2021), and it’s more than $2,000 ($2,825) for HealthCare.gov marketplace plans,” reads the report. “Out-of-pocket maximums average $4,272 for single coverage in employer plans and range up to $8,700 in marketplace plans. These plan features leave people with considerable cost exposure in case of a sudden illness or accident.”
Nine percent of people surveyed were completely without health insurance.
Half of the people surveyed said they would be unable to pay an unexpected $1,000 medical bill within 30 days, including 69% of Black adults and 63% of Latinos.
The Commonwealth Fund prominently pointed out that Americans have “record-high health coverage,” but Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the author of the Medicare for All Act, which has 121 co-sponsors in the U.S. House, pointed out that 26 million Americans still lacking health insurance.