People who are underinsured are people who have health insurance but spend 10 percent or more of their income on out-of-pocket medical expenses. For people below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, being underinsured means spending more than 5 percent of income on out-of-pocket medical costs.
Being underinsured also means paying deductibles of 5 percent or more of family income.
The researchers found that people who were underinsured were more likely to go without needed health care and have problems paying medical bills, compared with people who have adequate health insurance.
In fact, 53 percent of the underinsured and 68 percent of those without health insurance had to forgo needed medical care, such as not seeing a doctor when sick, not filling prescriptions, and not getting recommended diagnostic tests or treatments. "The underinsured look a lot like the uninsured," Schoen said.
Among the underinsured, 45 percent reported having difficulty paying bills, being contacted by collection agencies for unpaid bills, and curtailing their way of life to pay their medical bills, compared with 21 percent of people with adequate health insurance.
Also, underinsured people were more likely to have insurance plans that limit payments. They were also more likely to have high deductibles. For example, one quarter of underinsured people had deductibles of $1,000 or more, the report found.
However, premiums for the underinsured were similar to or higher than those paid by people with adequate insurance, the researchers found.
"Today in the United States you can have health insurance all year long but still go into medical debt or face bankruptcy when you get sick," Schoen said. "This erosion of insurance protection is putting patients, families and the nation's h
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