Health care is costly. A large portion of Americans who go each year to see doctors may receive treatment for their health complications, but often leave with dire financial complications.
A report released by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that conducts independent research on health and social issues, finds that even though more Americans now have health insurance, many still avoid seeing doctors because of high out-of-pocket expenses.
An underinsured individual is defined as having annual out-of-pocket medical expenses equal to 10 percent or more of household income, or equal to 5 percent or more of household income if gross earnings fall 200 percent below the federal poverty level ($22,980 for an individual and $47,100 for a family of four). Additionally, those with deductibles equal to 5 percent or more of household income are considered underinsured
Because of high health insurance deductibles, approximately 23 percent of Americans ages 19 to 64 were considered underinsured. This is equivalent to 31 million people who can't fill essential prescriptions or forego necessary medical treatment because of costs.
Additionally, the rates of underinsurance among Americans who receive health benefits through their employers climbed from 10% in 2003 to 20% through 2014, according to the report. Individuals insured through Medicaid also have a difficult time paying bills, with 22% of beneficiaries underinsured in 2014- with the highest rates among the disabled, a population that needs the most medical care.
Nearly half of underinsured reported having to use their savings to pay their bills and 44% said they had received lower credit ratings because of medical bills. A third of the underinsured reported taking on credit card debt to pay for uncovered health care costs, and 7 percent declared bankruptcy as a result of medical bills.
Good Neighbor Rx looks to address issues found in the study , that reports 25% of underinsured adults with at least one chronic condition did not fill a prescription or skipped doses due to cost. Currently, the average Good Neighbor Rx user saves $82 per prescription filled with a high savings of $373 per prescription filled.
While drug discount programs like Good Neighbor Rx are great at helping individuals find affordable prescriptions, more sweeping healthcare change is still needed. Policy makers, physicians, hospitals, etc. should work together to address the holes in health plans that cover our 31 millions underinsured Americans.