October 17, 2016
Sometimes we spend money on fun things and sometimes we spend money on things we need or to protect our future financial security. Paying for health insurance falls under the category of needed, but not fun.
We buy health insurance to protect ourselves from unknown financial risk. While we can't predict our future health needs, we can use insurance to protect our finances in case we have large medical bills. Just like auto insurance, we hope we won't need to use most of our health insurance coverage
How do people in our Illinois get health insurance? In 2015, 54% received it through an employer health insurance plan; 14% are on Medicare, 19% through Medicaid; 1% through another public insurance plan such as through military or veteran benefits; and 6% through a non-group insurance plan like one purchased the Health Marketplace. Six percent of Illinois consumers were uninsured. That's a variety of sources!
Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, approximately 18% of the non-elderly U.S. population did not have health insurance. In 2016, this percentage has dropped to 8.6% nationally. This is a significant and important change, and a new low for our country.
However, we still need to spread the word about the importance of health insurance. Health insurance is critical for financial security. In 2015, over half of uninsured people (53%) said that they or someone in their household had problems paying medical bills, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Open Enrollment for Marketplace health insurance plans for 2017 runs from November 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017. If you don't have health insurance currently go to https://getcovered.illinois.gov/ to explore your options. Or, if you'd like to compare the cost of health insurance for yourself through the Marketplace (rather than through work), you can do this too.
Most people 65 years old and older are eligible for Medicare – and that is their health insurance plan. People who receive Medicare benefits should not buy policies through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The Affordable Care Act did bring new services to Medicare recipients such as free preventative health care services (such as vaccines and cancer screenings), more self-management programs for diseases such as diabetes, alcoholism and depression, as well as free yearly wellness visit. Ask your doctor if there are free health preventive services that would be beneficial to you. These type of preventative services for Medicare recipients (as well as through other health insurance plans) are expected to lower our nation's health care costs in the long-term.
Do you know someone without health insurance? Perhaps now is a good time to talk to them about their options, and the risks of not being insured. If you'd like to explore buying health insurance through the Marketplace, and you'd like in-person help, go to https://www.getcoveredamerica.org/IL/ to find a location near you.
Source: Kathy Sweedler
Consumer Economics Educator
University of Illinois Extension