Loss of health insurance

The current economic situation of job loss, occupational insecurity, and the hardships of unemployment continue to be a topic of discussion in our community, within the healthcare industry, and in governmental policy making organizations. The job loss numbers for 2008 were 2.6 million jobs, and another 2 million in 2009. The problem posed for many families the healthcare industry and physicians is that many of these jobs included health insurance which was lost because of job termination.

There is a federally mandated insurance program named COBRA, in which companies with over twenty employees allow former employees to purchase insurance through the company for up to three years. The problem is that the insurance usually winds up costing the previously employed person and his family a lot of money. Unemployment benefits usually max out at about $1270 per month. COBRA insurance premiums averaged $1069 per month. In some states COBRA rates exceeded monthly unemployment payments. Over 30% of adult Americans reported being uninsured after losing their jobs. On the other hand, over 50% of adults reported having accrued medical debts or being unable to pay their medical bills.

So how does this play out for the uninsured or under insured patient? Well a lot of them simply can’t afford to go to the doctor. They are riding out acute illnesses for which they might previously have sought attention. Many of these illnesses can be easily treated and patients are taking the chance of turning a relatively benign condition into a potentially serious one. A lot of patients are not regularly following up chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension. Some are cutting their medications into half-doses, or not taking them at all. They are not taking immunizations and are not following other preventive health practices.

What are some things you can do if you lose your health insurance? Here are some suggestions:

1.) Keep looking for another job which has healthcare benefits which is becoming much harder; it might include a change in career. If you have time, go back to school and receive training in job positions which are available in the area. There are many grant opportunities a school may tell you about.

2.) Consider moving to another area where jobs are more plentiful. If you are an auto worker in Michigan (the worst job loss rated state), consider a move to Colorado (the best).

3.) Seek help from state resources. If finances are really tight, you have children, or are disabled inquire about Medicaid.

4.) Set up a savings account just for medical expenses; put a percentage of your money into it each pay period for future medical expenses. Some employers do not offer traditional health insurance but may offer a HAS or Health Savings Account. This HSA uses pre-tax dollars from your paycheck so it reduces your tax liability. Inquire about details from your employer because there are limitations.

5.) Investigate private health insurance companies like Blue Cross, Aetna, or Kaiser Permanente; you don’t know until you ask what their premiums and programs are valued. Speak with a reputable insurance broker. Patients must be careful when looking into private insurance as there are many plans that are not health insurance but merely discount clubs or discount cards which may be marketed aggressively with many pages of fine print.

6.) Take advantage of the free care that is available at health fairs such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checks.

7.) The barter system is making a comeback in this economy. Check and see if you can trade with a local physician. Maybe he possibly needs a service you can provide in exchange for medical care.

8.) See what services are available at your local Health Department. These services can include outpatient medical, PAP smears, and needed immunizations.

9.) Very importantly, it is the time to practice preventive health maintenance. Put that money you’d spend on cigarettes into your healthcare savings account. Start trying to lose that extra weight with a good diet plan. Maybe it’s time to get out the sneakers and start your walking program. Do something for your mental health, too; take up a hobby, and try to think positively. Church could be a social outlet without a great cash requirement. Spend time with your kids and try to pass along a positive outlook. Let them participate in your Preventive Health plan.

10.) Remember your situation is a maze, not a dead-end there are solutions if you work at them. Make up your mind to keep exploring each and every avenue and passage looking for a better life on the other side.

This economic crunch is not going to last forever. Jobs will become available, and healthcare will be restored, either as a national program or continue as an employee-earned benefit.

John Drew Laurusonis, M.D.
Doctors Medical Center

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Laurusonis was conferred his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1983 and has been actively taking care of patients since completing his Internal Medicine residency in 1987 in the Garden State of New Jersey. Dr. Laurusonis has been licensed in four states but ultimately chose to permanently relocate to Georgia with his family and begin a private practice. Through his extensive experience in Internal Medicine, as well as in Emergency Rooms throughout the United States, Dr. Laurusonis saw how traditional Emergency Rooms were often overwhelmed by patients suffering medical conditions that were urgent but may not need the traditional “Level I Trauma Center”. Patients often waited six to twelve hours to be seen by a physician, were riddled with thousands of dollars in medical bills, and were generally unhappy with the system.
Dr. Laurusonis decided to open an Urgent Care Center instead of a 9-5 doctor's office. Through the last fifteen years he has received accolades from the community and his patients. He has expanded his practice to include many cosmetic therapies that have previously been treated with painful and extensive plastic surgery. He has been invited to the White House numerous times, has been named Physician of the Year from GA, as seen in the Wall Street Journal, and has served as Honorary Co-Chairman on the Congressional Physicians Advisory Board
Dr. Laurusonis and his practice, Doctors Medical Center, is open 7 days a week from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm offering such services as lab, x-ray, EKGs, aesthetics (Botox, dermabrasion, sclerotheraby and veins etc.), cold/flu, sore throats, fractures, sprains, lacerations, GYN, Pediatrics, Phlebology Anxiety/Insomnia/Depression Treatment, skin tag/mole removal, veins, allergies, asthma, physicals--just to name a few. Dr. Laurusonis welcomes you to either make an appointment or just walk-in to see him. Dr. Laurusonis will take the time to speak with you about your concerns--no problem is too big or too small. If you need additional services we have specialist referrals available or we can refer you to the neighborhood hospital emergency room. Give Doctors Medical Center a call--Dr. Laurusonis will be happy to speak with you.

John Drew Laurusonis, MD
Doctors Medical Center
3455 Peachtree Industrial Blvd
Suite 110
Duluth, GA 30096