By Michael Ollove | Stateline.org (TNS)
BALTIMORE — The number of Americans with health insurance has climbed to historic highs during the COVID-19 pandemic, but within that silver lining is a darker hue.
Many Americans have policies that only provide limited financial protection, to the point that many patients report forgoing needed medical care or prescriptions to avoid being hit with punishing out-of-pocket costs.
Those are some of the findings from a new health insurance survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, a private research foundation that promotes high-quality, equitable health care.
The survey comes on the heels of other health insurance data, including some released by the US Census Bureau from its annual American Community Survey, attesting that certain pandemic measures, particularly those Congress passed, have ushered more people into health insurance than ever before.
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In 2021, nearly 299 million Americans had health insurance, the most ever, and the number of Americans without health insurance — just over 28 million in 2021 — had dropped by 1.4 million people from 2019, according to the American Community Survey.
During the pandemic, Congress has prevented states from disenrolling anyone from Medicaid, the health plan for lower-income Americans. It also increased subsidies to help pay for individual health plans bought on the Affordable Care Act markets.
Yet the increased insurance hasn’t necessarily provided sufficient financial protection and by extension, necessary medical care.
The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to provide specified benefits, but it doesn’t eliminate the copays and deductibles that patients must pay.
“The big ‘but’ is that while it’s great that more people have insurance coverage, it’s also half the battle,” said Gideon Lukens, director of research and data analysis for health policy at the left-leaning research institute, the Center on Budget