By Juan Calvillo
Medical insurance companies returned to charging COVID-19 patients co-pays and dues as early as January and people need to be better prepared to pay.
For most of 2020 many medical insurance companies waived co-pays or just didn’t charge people who were sick with COVID-19.
Before going any further, this opinion is not whether insurance companies’ decision to start charging again is a bad one. It is about the simple financial preparation that so many people fail to make early in their lives and how people need to be prepared now.
The question becomes how exactly does the average person prepare for something as challenging as COVID-19 costs, and the answer may be quite simple.
Frank Aguirre, chair of the Business Department at East Los Angeles College, said one of the big options is to have a health savings account set up.
This doesn’t mean being uninsured. What it means is that having even low level insurance is not as dangerous or trying as it could be.
Health insurance is a necessity now and always.
COVID-19 has killed over 700,000 people, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest dataset.
Having some way of checking and dealing with the costs of a deadly and transmittable virus is imperative.
Unfortunately, only about 92% of people in the United States have health insurance.
This is a high number, but not all people with health insurance have the right coverage.
Many are covered by something called discount policies. These policies are really only good so that people can say they have insurance.
Discount health insurance policies tend to have high premiums or co-pays or lack coverage for major health events.
“Unfortunately, most of us are not familiar with the terminology of health-care coverage and costs associated with different types of coverage. People tend to default for the lowest cost or coverage which usually has limited coverage for any major illness, disease, or bodily harm,” Aguirre said.
Consumer Reports said as far back as 2012, on consumerreports.org, that some plans are what it calls “junk health insurance.”
The report said this type of coverage is minimal in some cases and in others dangerously so, with some regulators not considering certain plans as actual insurance plans.
“Some of the companies operate one step ahead of the law,” Consumer Reports said.
Financial literacy and preparedness are not just for people with money.
Aguirre said when considering health insurance, understanding that plans are not made in a one-size-fits-all manner.
This understanding helps people make better choices, which in turn can help make sure upcoming bills don’t cause people to break out the old piggy bank for funds.
Aguirre said living in California is a benefit when it comes to health plans because there is a conscious effort to do better by the health of California’s residents.
“We should continue to encourage our elected officials to support health-care efforts that are equitable for both rich and poor so that we all have a safety net for major needs,” Aguirre said.
Being prepared is important during a pandemic.
Having health plans that are affordable and include the best coverage for each individual is even more important.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a bit of unrest philosophically when insurance companies decide that the bottom line is more important than the people they serve.
While not trying to veer too much into a debate on right and wrong, it is a bit problematic for companies who are charged with people’s well-being to decide when they plan on charging and when they don’t.
Tim Snead, chair of the Philosophy Department, summed up the situation as one of duty from insurance companies and a patient’s health rights.
“Clearly, health-care industries should have fiduciary duties to patients, but in our health system they also have fiduciary duties toward financial concerns and interests, which may at times conflict with those of its customers. It appears that here is just such a possible conflict. Which raises further questions about where one stands upon in terms of rights,” Snead said.