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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Health care spending grows at slower rate

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

We’ve got some good news, and we’ve got some bad news. The good news is that CMS reports that health care spending in 2009 grew by the slowest rate in the last 50 years. The bad news is that this statistic actually means that Americans need help when it comes to health care.

A recent New York Times article noted that “the number of people with private coverage declined by 3.2 percent, or 6.3 million people” in 2009, the year before the Affordable Care Act passed. 

This is likely the result of a few different factors.

As the economy took a nosedive, millions of Americans lost their jobs, and as a result, they lost their health insurance. Many laid-off employees were forced into the individual market and found that health insurance there was too expensive or that plans would not cover their pre-existing conditions. As a result, many newly unemployed were forced to make the difficult decision to go without coverage.

To cut down on costs, many businesses have chosen not to continue to offer health insurance to their employees. This also dumps hard-working Americans into the individual market where finding an affordable plan can be challenging.

So with family budgets across the country stretched thin, some Americans have decided to cut back on annual check-ups and are even skipping visits to the doctor when they’re sick.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that when people skip initial visits to the doctor because they don’t have insurance, they often end up sicker in the long run. Then, when they eventually do seek care, their health care costs are higher and are passed on to those who have insurance.

These data demonstrate how desperately American families need health reform. Thankfully, provisions in the Affordable Care Act aim to help Americans out during tough economic times. For example, young adults up to age 26 can now stay on their parents plan if they’re having trouble securing a job with benefits. And in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse someone a policy because they have a pre-existing condition. Subsidies will be provided on a sliding scale basis for those find it difficult to afford the cost of premiums, and Medicaid will be expanded to cover the lowest income Americans.