How Forgoing Health Insurance Can Shave Years Off Your Life

blankHealth insurance in America has become a popular subject for debate since the early phases of health insurance cost booms. The COVID-19-induced economic downturn has added a whole new dimension to the healthcare system conversation, polarizing groups who favor universal healthcare and those advocating for a single-payer healthcare system. Because millions of Americans have lost their source of income, and by extension, their health insurance, neutrality is no longer socially acceptable amidst these trying times.

Even before the pandemic hit full force, many US citizens identified as uninsured. Have you ever asked yourself why? Many people cite cost as the chief reason. In 2019, about 73.7 percent of uninsured persons cited high insurance costs as the primary reason for remaining uninsured.

Some other reasons include:

  • Loss of jobs (as they can no longer access employer-sponsored insurance coverage)
  • Living in a state that’s in the process of expanding Medicaid coverage
  • Undocumented status, rendering immigrants ineligible for Medicaid/marketplace health coverage
  • Personal beliefs that health insurance is non-essential.
  • Ineligibility for coverage due to age

While many would agree that the insurance sector is in a better state than it was ten years ago, there’s still progress to be made. Fortunately, there has been increased political will to address astronomical health insurance costs that prevent US citizens from receiving essential healthcare services.

While greater visibility on our political stage has worked its magic in reforming the healthcare sector, the Affordable Care Act [ACA] has successfully trimmed down the number of uninsured Americans in the US today. According to the most recent data, 9.2 percent of Americans [29.6 million] still identify as uninsured, compared to over 44 million pre-ACA.

Although the ACA has insured millions of previously uninsured Americans, the number of uninsured folks is still staggeringly high. To no surprise, studies show that remaining uninsured for long periods can have devastating physical health and economic implications. With these consequences in mind, shopping for affordable health insurance plans from a healthcare marketplace like this is a no brainer.

Disadvantages of remaining uninsured

ACA has, indeed, tried to alleviate the perennial healthcare challenges of the US. However, for various reasons, many Americans remain uninsured, barring them from accessing quality healthcare services. Below is an eye-opening rundown of unprecedented consequences of lacking health coverage.

Inability to access essential healthcare services

In 2019, three out of 10 uninsured adults went without medical care due to high costs. Research increasingly shows that uninsured persons are more likely to overlook the importance of preventive care for chronic and severe conditions. A higher percentage of uninsured folks translates to higher mortality rates among younger demographics.

Many uninsured people are likely to delay seeking healthcare services until symptoms become intolerable. Sometimes, it’s usually too late, especially where the illness has progressed beyond a point of no return and caused irreversible damage. Late diagnosis complicates treatment of chronic conditions, which would otherwise have been easier to treat in the early stages.

Financial consequences

Without medical coverage, the financial impact comes hard and fast. Given the high cost of medical care, uninsured persons are likely to run into medical debts known to obliterate these uninsured persons’ life savings.

There’s a high probability that people lacking medical coverage operate in low-income communities. Typically, falling below the poverty line deprives individuals of proper housing, education, and employment. When you add limited access to healthcare to these mounting deficiencies, it’s easy to see why low-income have shorter lifespans, on average. For those skeptics out there, consider brushing up on some recent statistics.

Research shows that the wealthiest one percent of male US citizens are likely to live 14.6 years more than the poorest one percent of men in the United States. Among US women, the difference in those percentiles is 10.1 years.

Over the last 15 years, women and men’s life expectancies increased 2.34 years and 2.91 years, respectively, among the top five percent most affluent U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same for low-income populations. Men’s and women’s life expectancy rates increased by just 0.04 and 0.32 years, respectively, for the bottom five percent income earners.

These mortality gaps will continue widening if government officials don’t address the blatant inequalities in accessing quality healthcare services. Non-existent healthcare, poor education, questionable living environments, and low-standard education will continue, depriving low-income Americans of improved quality of life and increasing mortality rates amongst impoverished communities.

Strains the entire healthcare system

If you thought that the uninsured population doesn’t affect your premiums and medical costs, you’re misguided. According to a report released by the Commonwealth Fund, the number of uninsured Americans has steadily increased since 2017, after the number of uninsured persons had hit a historic low in 2016. The rising number of uninsured people has had rippling effects on the entire US healthcare system.

Unbeknownst to most, insurance premiums are likely to increase if young, healthier people abandon the insurance pool. Because insurance is a profit-oriented business that capitalizes on masses, the effects of poor insurance intake are likely to be passed on to the consumers.

Uninsured patients are likely to require emergency services that would otherwise have been avoided through preventive care. Preventable emergency services clog the healthcare system unnecessarily. They also lead to increased use of resources such as ambulances. As the number of uninsured folks surges, it puts a strain on the overall healthcare system.

To sum it up

Opting out of health insurance isn’t a gamble worth taking. The consequences are far-reaching both to the individuals and the government. An unhealthy society affects us all. While it’s true that the buck stops with the government, insurers have a responsibility of generating consumer-friendly plans to ensure that health insurance is within most American’s reach.