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Why Health Insurance Is Important

Image: Carlos Reusser Monsalvez / Flickr

At a time when possible ACA repeal could affect many millions of Americans, we take a look into why health insurance is important.

Life is unpredictable. A mounting body of research indicates that relative to those with health insurance, uninsured Americans have higher mortality rates and are more likely to go into debt. They are also more likely to die suddenly, to die from treatable illnesses, and to die at a premature age.

Approximately 50 million Americans are uninsured and lack any kind of healthcare coverage. If you are one of them, you may  be wondering why having health insurance is important.

For many Americans, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck, health insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense. The opposite is true. While there are many smart ways to go about saving money, going without health insurance isn’t one of them. Forgoing coverage isn’t smart, nor will it save you money in the long run. The bottom line? Being uninsured is financially risky.

Without health insurance…

1. You risk financial ruin.

Health insurance isn’t just about access to healthcare – it’s also about protection from financial ruin. Insurance can be expensive, but lacking coverage can cost much more. No one is invincible; anybody can be injured in a car accident, or receive an unexpected diagnosis. While it’s unclear whether poor health begets financial insecurity or vice versa, the correlation between not having health insurance and financial instability is indisputable. Indeed, medical debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy filings among Americans.

2. You won’t have access to preventative and primary care.

The bottom line? Uninsured people tend to be sicker and are more likely to die prematurely than their peers who do have health insurance.  Even adults who are young and healthy can benefit from preventive care, annual checkups and chronic disease management – be it for allergies, depression, asthma, diabetes or another type of condition. And women, in particular, benefit from gynecological and reproductive care.

On the whole, uninsured Americans have worse health outcomes; cancers and other deadly diseases, for example, are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages in uninsured people. Uninsured pregnant women use fewer prenatal services and uninsured children and adults are less likely than their insured counterparts to have a primary care doctor whom they trust.

3. You may have trouble getting follow-up care.

Even brief gaps in coverage can contribute to problems in accessing care, obtaining prescriptions, and paying bills. Although safety-net care from hospitals and clinics improves access to care, these services are intended to be a last resort solution. They do not cover the cost of services such as physical therapy and rehab.

4. You won’t have access to affordable drugs.

This includes antibiotics, contraceptives, and other medicines to treat common viruses and infections, allergies, and other ailments. With the costs of prescription drugs on the rise, it’s becoming more and more common for the uninsured to forgo medications that they need in order to stay healthy.

5. Being uninsured impacts everyone.

People who don’t have health insurance coverage often wait until their condition is unmanageable before going to the emergency room to get care. This results in large bills from doctors and facilities which often go unpaid. To recoup those funds, hospitals are forced to charge more for services.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Healthcare, Inc. and HealthCare.com.

Erica Block: Erica Block is an Editorial Fellow at HealthCare.com, where she gets to combine her interest in healthcare policy with her penchant for creating online content. When she isn't reading or writing, Erica can be found wandering around Brooklyn, playing softball, or listening to podcasts. She counts music, rescue dogs, and lumberjack sports among her greatest passions. Follow Erica on Twitter: @EricaDaleBlock

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