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5 Lessons Learned About Health Insurance in Times of COVID-19

Upfront: The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a once in a lifetime global health emergency.  By some estimates, tens of millions of people worldwide have contracted the virus to date and approximately 1 million people have already died.  This has not only strained our healthcare system it has brought many other social questions […]

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Upfront:

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a once in a lifetime global health emergency.  By some estimates, tens of millions of people worldwide have contracted the virus to date and approximately 1 million people have already died.  This has not only strained our healthcare system it has brought many other social questions to the forefront. While some healthcare professionals predict a plateauing of the disease, many other healthcare professionals warn that with the onset of cooler weather bringing the annual flu-season ever closer, we could see a massive spike in infections.  In any case, almost no one expects a vaccine to be widely available in the near-term.  Creating a vaccine is a long slog in the best of times. With the financial devastation resulting from lost business activity, lockdowns, social distancing and the like, health insurance, an already unruly mess in the United States, has become even more complicated, if you can imagine.  Americans of all ages need to be aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and be aware of the changing healthcare landscape and their healthcare options as the pandemic continues.  Websites like American Insurance can help consumers who are looking for health insurance navigate the maze of complexities in getting coverage.

Here’s What You Need To Consider:

  1. Medicaid is Really Important

Medicaid provides health care coverage to low income and disabled Americans.  In fact, in 2019 approximately 75 million people were enrolled in the program, or approximately 185 of the total population.  The program’s requirements are set at the federal level but is administered at the state level.  Medicaid is funded jointly between federal and state governments according to prescribed formulas.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic it has been estimated that about 25% of Medicaid enrollees are either elderly or disabled, two of the categories that are seemingly most susceptible to having serious consequences in contracting the virus.  As the pandemic hit the U.S. early in 2020, the economic impact was immediate and huge.  The economy tanked and millions were thrown out of work.  Preliminary data indicates that Medicaid enrollment is rising (unsurprisingly) and may continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

  • Underinsured and Uninsured Citizens

Although the Affordable Care Act has helped millions get health insurance, the record unemployment stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has put enormous pressure on the healthcare system.  Preliminary data suggests that Medicaid enrollment increases have not kept pace with the numbers who have lost their jobs, so some experts surmise that many folks have been forced to go without coverage altogether.  Even for those with ACA or “Obamacare” health insurance, the treatment costs resulting from contracting the virus may be crushing.  All in all, experts assume that health insurance worries nationwide will continue to grow. 

  • Expect More Consolidations in Medical Practices

In recent years, there has been an increasing trend toward consolidation in the field of healthcare. More and more hospitals are merging, and many individual practices are aggregating into larger entities. When COVID-19 hit hard in March 2020, many hospitals were immediately inundated with virus patients.  But one of the unique financial aspects of the crisis has been the dramatic reduction in routine or elective medical procedures.  These things are often the bread and butter of many a health care provider and the pandemic stopped many of these procedures virtually in their tracks.  The decreased revenue will likely pressure many healthcare providers to either go under or to merge.  Nationwide we could be seeing a reduction in the overall number of independent providers.

  • Although Some Health Insurers are Doing Just Fine, That May Be Worrisome

The reduction in routine and elective medical procedures has been a tough hit for many healthcare providers but it has been a short-term boon to the bottom line for some health insurers.  Congress has provided funds to help cover the medical costs of COVID-19 patients but the decrease in other health treatments has meant cost savings for some insurers.  However, one of the big questions around this issue is whether those ailments, both chronic and acute, have been temporarily held at bay and will resume at the old levels once the pandemic subsides? Or, perhaps, will those patients just get worse and worse requiring even more care at a future date?

  • Telemedicine Is Probably Here to Stay

According to a recent McKinsey report, the rate of telehealth visits has risen from 11% of consumers in 2019 to over 45% in the middle of the pandemic.  COVID-19 has been an accelerant to the increased adoption of telemedicine and although levels may decrease a little in the near term, most professionals see a steady increase over the long term.  Everyone in the health chain will need to adapt a little.  Health care providers will need to acquire better equipment and better processes to facilitate smooth tele-visits and consumers will need to adjust to realizing that some visits to the doctor really can be productive at a distance.  Health insurers have been encouraging the use of telemedicine to reduce overall health costs.  The trend is clear.

The Back Page:

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact health insurance issues in ways that are predictable and not.  The American quilt of health coverage (employer and government provided healthcare within a profit-based system) will continue to face continuing pressures as the pandemic continues.  American consumers are urged to be smart about their health and be smart about the COVID virus.

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