“The whole point of health insurance is protection from financial ruin in case of catastrophic, costly health problems,” Margot Sanger-Katz writes over at The New York Times. “But a recent survey of people facing such problems shows that it often fails in that basic function. The survey, of some of the country’s most seriously ill people, found that even with health insurance, more than a third of the respondents had spent all or most of their savings while sick. They are often faced with deductibles and co-payments; treatments their insurance won’t cover; and financial challenges — like lost work — that health insurance alone can’t address. The New York Times, the Commonwealth Fund and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health used the survey to examine the sliver of the American population who use the health care system the most. To be included in the results, a respondent had to have been hospitalized twice in the last two years, and to have seen at least three doctors. … Their experiences may serve as an early warning system for problems that all of us may face: Because the estimated 40 million people in this population visit doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies the most, they are the likeliest to see the weak points in the health care system. One of these is financial insecurity. Among people with health insurance, more than 20 percent had trouble paying for basic necessities. More than a quarter had bills in collection, and 13 percent had borrowed money as a result of their illness.” Margot Sanger-Katz, “1,495 Americans describe the financial reality of being really sick,” The New York Times.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded... More by Jeanne Pinder