The Squeeze Is On

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<p>As employers cope with rising health care costs by dropping health benefits for workers or increasing employee deductibles, working families are getting "squeezed," a new Commonwealth Fund study released today finds.<br><br>As reported in <a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=24208&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D402531%26%23doc402531">Squeezed: Why Rising Exposure to Health Care Costs Threatens the Health and Financial Well-Being of American Families</a>, people who turn to the individual insurance market after losing their employer group coverage often find they don't qualify for any plans in this market, or simply can't afford their often high cost. In a national survey of working-age adults, an overwhelming proportion--89 percent--of working-age adults who sought coverage in the individual market during the past three years ended up never buying a plan.<br><br>A majority of those who sought coverage found it very difficult to find an affordable health plan, while one-fifth were turned down, were charged a higher price because of a preexisting condition, or had a health problem excluded from coverage.<br><br>The study also finds that Americans with high-deductible health plans--whether through the individual market or through an employer--have higher out-of-pocket costs than people with lower-deductible plans. Many plan enrollees are left with burdensome medical bills because of limits to their insurance coverage.<br><br>Commonwealth Fund Assistant Vice President Sara Collins, Ph.D., lead author of the report, notes that most of the recent increase in the number of uninsured Americans was due to a decline in workplace coverage. "Although the individual market is a last resort for those shut out of employer-sponsored coverage," Collins said, "it is by no means a safe or secure haven for everyone."<br><br>In her new "<a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=24216&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Faboutus%2Faboutus%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D401213%26%23doc401213">From the President</a>" column, Fund President Karen Davis, Ph.D., argues that workers should not be shouldering the erosion of employer-based health insurance. She also outlines ways in which the nation can work toward improving coverage and cutting costs.</p>