Having Health Insurance Not Enough

Many people who have health insurance may think they don't have to worry about paying for medical bills but, according to an article in the current issue of Consumer Reports, that's simply not true.

An exclusive nationwide survey by the magazine of working-age adults found three out of 10 Americans who have health insurance don't have adequate coverage. They are underinsured. And some 16 percent of those who responded said they don't have health insurance at all.

Consumer Reports Editor Kim Kleman discussed the situation on The Early Show Friday with co-anchor Harry Smith.

The underinsured said they can't afford health care, so, "They're not much better off than people without insurance at all," Kleman told Smith.

"Insurance companies," Kleman observed, "which are the middle men in this whole formula, cannot or will not reduce costs for medical care. And so, those costs are passed on to employers and consumers. Insurance companies are still making their comfortable profit. But employers and consumers have to make up the difference."

"Employers are trying to keep the same percentage of total premium," she continued. "They're trying to make sure they cover something. But because costs overall are increasing, employees … are having to pay more money, even though the share of what they're paying toward their premium is about the same. And, you know, benefits are getting skimpier. And co-pays and deductibles are increasing. So, this is a huge problem for a lot of people."

Kleman offered tips for getting the most out of your health coverage:

  • Know what you have: "Make sure you take advantage of well-visits you might have or well-baby care. If you're shopping around for insurance, make sure the critical thing to make sure you have is some kind of hospitalization coverage. Because if you don't, that takes a huge bite out of what you would — what you would have to pay."

    "It could bankrupt you," Smith pointed out.

    "Absolutely," Kleman agreed.

  • Avoid surprises: "You might know, for example, that, if you know you need a procedure done, you're going to go to a hospital that's covered by your health plan. But you have to be extra vigilant and make sure every doctor or hospital person working on you is also covered by your plan. Because while your doctor or anesthesiologist might be covered, the radiologist might not be, and then that's money that you're paying out of pocket."
  • Check generic drug options first: "Generics are most often the best drug for a wide variety of ailments and conditions. We offer a free service for consumers, Best Buy Drugs, which is available on our Web site. You can check all the clinical studies for a variety of ailment and we tell you the best generic drugs that work."
  • Learn how to fight back: "The first thing to do concerning fighting back is ask your doctor for a discount. Don't go to the doctor's billing person. Go to the doctor, him or herself. If you're paying out of pocket, you can often get a discount for the procedure. And the second thing is if you feel you have been denied care, there is definitely a process you can go through with your insurer. Your state has a separate process. That's free on our Web site as well, To read the health insurance article in Consumer Reports, click here.

    For more on health and fitness from Consumer Reports, click here.