Hidden Health Care Crisis: The Underinsured

By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2009 10:41 AM CST
President Barack Obama hopes to provide insurance coverage for all, but often overlooked in the Health Care debate are those who are insured, but not insured enough.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – Health-care policy debate in America is usually framed around the 45 million (and rising) uninsured, but rarely do policymakers bring up the additional 25 million facing the “shadow problem” of under-insurance, Time reports. These people pay more than 10% of their income on out-of-pocket medical costs, often on flimsy short-term policies that seem generous when you’re healthy, but prove insufficient should you ever really get sick.

Short-term policies treat you as a new patient each time you renew, meaning they can prescribe the premium-escalating term “pre-existing condition” to something that happened while you were insured. Even employer-provided plans are often misunderstood and capped at relatively low annual maximums, leaving the policyholder to cover what can be tens of thousands of dollars. Under these plans, “just about anyone could be one bad diagnosis away from financial ruin.”