Does Obamacare Have a Silver Lining?

(PHOTO: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE) U.S. President Barack Obama takes a question as he speaks about the Affordable Care Act during a visit to Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee July 1, 2015.
(PHOTO: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
U.S. President Barack Obama takes a question as he speaks about the Affordable Care Act during a visit to Taylor Stratton Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee July 1, 2015.

It’s getting tough to pay for healthcare. CBS Moneywatch reports that deductibles are rising rapidly as the insurance markets adapt to the new world of the Affordable Care Act. Yet despite these increases, the overall premium you pay to have insurance also continues to rise, leading to a sum total wallop to the wallet of the average American. While this is greatly burdening Americans today, it does present an opportunity for transformation tomorrow.

As the Moneywatch article explains, the high deductibles Americans are experiencing should, in theory, pressure them to make more informed, conservative health spending choices. After all, high deductibles essentially make health insurance more like other types of insurance: protection against catastrophic costs. This means consumers pay for most routine services out of pocket, including urgent care visits, basic prescriptions, routine care, even emergency room visits, up to an annual deductible of, say, $6,000 for a family of four.

This market incentive is good, because when we pay for these smaller costs out of pocket, we are more keenly aware of what we are spending. But there are two major problems still confronting Americans.

The first is that health insurance premiums (the cost to have health insurance) have continued to rise, which isn’t surprising in the post-Obamacare world. The Affordable Care Act made purchasing insurance mandatory, and has required private insurers to ignore pre-existing conditions and most other underwriting considerations. Whatever you think of the ACA, anyone with sense could see that it was likely to increase costs. Simultaneously, the cost of healthcare itself has continued to rise, resulting in a troubling combo: increasing premiums to go along with those increasing deductibles.

In theory, one of the economic goals of a higher deductible is to lower premium costs and incentivize Americans to shop around. They have money in hand now that would have previously gone to pay for their premium, and they use that money to cover healthcare costs until they meet their deductible. But because the money is in their hands, suddenly people feel they are really spending their own dollars, which leads them to be a bit more careful. Absent shrinking premiums, however, the high deductible approach falls short of its best goals, and Americans wind up finding it hard to afford any care at all.

The second problem confronting Americans is outlined in the Moneywatch article. Even though consumers are being incentivized to shop around, they are frequently unable to make informed purchasing choices. Too often, cash-strapped Americans forgo truly necessary care that would save them money in the long term because it seems expensive in the short term. Or they have no expertise or resources for distinguishing between multiple treatment, testing, or provider options, so they just default to whatever their doctors recommend without looking into any options at all.

The rising costs of premiums, higher deductibles, and this lack of consumer knowledge create a bad cocktail. But while the present is bleak, there is great potential for the future. More than anything else, the situation calls for reviewers, counselors, and educators.

We need Yelp and its kin for doctors, testing centers, and hospitals, featuring both patient reviews and real data (already in the works).

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Christian Post
Zachary Gappa is Managing Editor at the John Jay Institute Center for a Just Society and Operations Manager at Gappa Security Solutions.