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Having health insurance is important because it coverage helps people get timely medical care and improves their lives and health. Some may believe that people always have access to medical care because they can always go to an emergency room. But even areas with well-supported safety care do not remove barriers to access to the same extent as does having health insurance.
Indeed, the prestigious IOM (Institute of Medicine) estimated that lack of coverage was associated with about 18,000 extra deaths per year among uninsured adults. So, in this article, we would talk more about Importance of Health Insurance.
- Uninsured people receive less medical care and less timely care.
Overall, uninsured people get about half as much care as the privately insured, as measured in dollars spent on their care even taking into account free care received from providers. This discrepancy holds true even when spending is adjusted for age, income, health status, and other factors.
- Uninsured adults get fewer preventive and screening services and on a less timely basis. Shortfalls are documented for many types of illness or condition, including screening for cervical and breast cancer as well as testing for high blood pressure or cholesterol. Cancers, for example, are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage of illness, when treatment is less successful. Uninsured pregnant women use fewer prenatal services, and uninsured children and adults are less likely than their uninsured counterparts to report having a regular source of care, to see medical providers, or to receive all recommended treatment.
Shortfalls are particularly notable for chronic conditions. For instance, uninsured adults with heart conditions are less likely to stay on drug therapy for high blood pressure.
- Uninsured people have worse health outcomes. The “bottom line” for uninsured people is that they are sicker and more apt to die prematurely than their insured counterparts. Conversely, having health insurance is associated with better health-related outcomes. Evidence comes from many studies using a variety of data sources and different methods of analysis. Death risk appears to be 25 percent or higher for people with certain chronic conditions, which led to the IOM estimate of some 18,000 extra deaths per year. Some complain that low health status may be a cause of uninsured status, rather than the other way around.
- Uninsured people do not benefit from the discounted medical prices. These are routinely negotiated by private health plans or imposed by public programs. Until recently, those without health insurance would be billed full hospital charges, for example. The low incomes of some patients qualify them for charity care, but others have often been dunned for unpaid bills. Uninsured families report medical bill problems at double or triple the rate of insured families, and medical bills have been found a contributing factor in a sixth or more of bankruptcies, according to various surveys. A recent movement to reduce charges for the uninsured has gained strength among public officials and from hospitals, and it may have alleviated this problem. On the other hand, affordability problems have increased along with rapid growth in the costs of care.
- The benefits of expanding health insurance outweigh the costs for added services. Expanding health insurance would improve health, lengthen lives, reduce disability, help control communicable diseases, and raise productivity. Newly insured people would get more services, above what they currently pay out of pocket or receive from medical providers in the form of uncompensated care. This can be expected to raise medical spending, but by less than the value of longevity and other benefits achieved.10 Such estimates are complex to make and do not address political issues concerning the sources for financing increases in spending, especially the likelihood that expansions would shift some spending from the private to the public sector.
- Safety care from hospitals and clinics improves access to care but does not fully substitute for health insurance. Proximity to safety hospitals or clinics increases access to care, according to studies using various methodologies. Better access presumably improves health outcomes, although this effect appears less well documented, and safety-net access may provide less continuity of care than insurance. Comparison across
- Cautions are appropriate in using these findings. Most benefits of health insurance are estimated for coverage in general, not for every type of insurance. Medicaid has sometimes been separately analyzed and achieves less on some measures than does private insurance. One possible reason is that enrollees more often go on and off; another is that Medicaid programs often pay lower rates to participating providers. Private insurance coverage that differs from traditional patterns, for instance, limited-benefit coverages or plans with very high deductibles might also achieve lesser health improvements. Conversely, adding additional benefits to existing conventional coverage will not necessarily achieve improvements of proportionate magnitude. Insurance and access to safety services are far from the only influences on health and longevity. Environmental and public health measures can have major impacts as well, including promotion of vaccinations, smoking cessation, and maintenance of healthy weight.