Some Insured Patients Still Skipping Care Because Of High Costs
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The health care law is called the Affordable Care Act, but many people are finding it's not affordable enough. The high deductibles and co-pays that come with the most popular plans can still leave care out of reach. Jim Burress of member station WABE in Atlanta explains.
JIM BURRESS, BYLINE: Renee Mitchell just finished up an appointment with her eye specialist at Emory University Hospital. The 63-year-old from Stone Mountain, Ga., learned she needs surgery to correct a cataract procedure gone wrong. But that's not even the scariest part. Cost is, she says.
RENEE MITCHELL: Further co-pays, more out-of-pocket expenses.
BURRESS: When Mitchell was uninsured, she put off procedures like this. Now she has a silver level Obamacare policy. It's the most popular plan with consumers because of the benefits it provides for the money. But she still struggles to pay.
MITCHELL: Not for having availability on my credit card, we'd probably be in the poor house.
BURRESS: Mitchell owes upwards of $20,000 for several years of medical expenses, and if she gets that surgery, she'll face a $4,000 deductible.
MITCHELL: It's a very big burden.
LYDIA MITTS: Consumers are still struggling with unaffordable out-of-pocket costs.
BURRESS: Lydia Mitts is with Families USA, a nonprofit advocacy group. It finds many of those with a silver level Obamacare policy find it hard to pay their medical bills.
MITTS: One in 4 adults who were fully insured for the whole year still reported that they went without some needed medical care because they couldn't afford it.
BURRESS: Many skipped follow-up care and don't fill prescriptions. But Mitts says it doesn't have to be that way. For example, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and Arizona have done away with deductibles on some plans. Some other states require only a small co-pay for basic services.
MITTS: They've waived the deductible for things like primary care visits, diagnostic tests and lab work, specialty care office visits, even some prescription drugs.
BURRESS: And it's more than just co-pays and deductibles that worry Renee Mitchell. This year, her monthly premium jumped about a hundred dollars. As she faces that eye surgery, she wants to make it clear she's not looking for a handout.
MITCHELL: I feel like people seem to think that we just want something for nothing. I worked a lot of years. I took an early retirement to take care of my family. It's not my fault, so to speak, that I'm here.
BURRESS: Mitchell stresses she's grateful to have health insurance. She just wants it to be affordable enough that she can use it. For NPR News, I'm Jim Burress in Atlanta.
SIEGEL: And that story is part of a reporting partnership of NPR, WABE and Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.