Examining US Health Insurance System

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, in the first installment of a three-part series about the U.S. health insurance system, examined how "millions of Americans" who do not have access to group insurance "are paying more for individual policies that offer less coverage and expose them to seemingly arbitrary exclusions and denials." According to the Times, "At the heart of the problem is the clash between the cost of medical care and insurers' need to turn a profit." Meanwhile, many employers say "rising health care costs cut into their ability to compete and, in some cases, survive," which has contributed to a steady decline in the percentage of U.S. residents without traditional group coverage, the Times reports.

According to the Times, in the absence of a universal health care system, "and with group coverage increasingly unavailable, more and more Americans are left to rely on individual health policies" that are "more expensive for all but the young and healthy and often provide fewer benefits." The Times profiled several cases that illustrate some of the drawbacks to private health insurance.

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According to the Times, individual policies are "lightly regulated," leaving private insurers "free to cherry-pick the healthiest customers" and "reject applicants for even mild pre-existing conditions." In addition, health insurance policy rescissions have become a common practice among insurers. Health insurers also are trying to profit by "devising cheap, stripped-down policies aimed at younger buyers" that often exclude maternity care and mental health care and are limited to generic drugs, the Times reports.

The Times series later this week will examine connections between health insurers and the banking industry, and the relationship between insurers and hospitals and doctors when it comes to paying bills (Girion/Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 10/21).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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