Health insurance has long divided Americans, offering generous benefits to some and very less-to-no protections to others.
According to a Los Angeles Times analysis, a steep run-up in deductibles, which have been tripled in the last decade, has worsened inequality, fueling anger and resentment, adding to the country’s unsettled politics.
Many rich Americans, who are already reaping most of the benefits from the last decade’s economic growth, have endured the significant increase in deductibles by putting away money in Health Savings Accounts, which are tax-free.
Millions of poor Americans, who were covered under Obamacare, can see a doctor or go to the hospital at virtually no cost – thanks to the half-century-old government program, Medicaid.
Crushed in the middle are the working Americans who have stagnant salaries, insurance premiums, which take more and more of their paychecks, increasing deductibles that leave them with surprising medical bills that they cannot afford.
Drew Altman, longtime head of the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a California-based nonprofit that researches the U.S. health system, said, “The system increasingly doesn’t work for this group in the middle.”
GOP Pollster Bill McInturff, who studied healthcare opinion for years, said anger and frustration have turned into resentment for many middle-class Americans who are struggling with high health insurance deductibles and healthcare costs.
He said, “Among the most angry focus groups I have done in my career was (one) with working-class women in Maine talking about how much their healthcare and childcare coverage was costing them compared to the women they knew on Medicaid.”
The dissatisfaction is even more marked among working-class Americans with the highest deductibles – four in 10 people report frustration, while nearly a quarter say they are angry.
Most of these workers blame pharma companies and health insurers for high drug prices and healthcare costs, according to The Times and KFF survey.
More than half of Democrats, who are struggling with the healthcare costs of their job-based health coverage, have been blaming the Trump administration for the cost pressures.
At least six in 10 Republicans blame Obamacare, the law that guaranteed Americans could get insurance if they are sick.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act gave millions of very poor Americans access to Medicaid, a program that does not have deductibles. Although the expansion of Medicaid is quite popular, it has strained U.S. workers and their families.
Due to a surge in deductibles and premiums, more and more low-income American workers with job-based health benefits have been enrolling their children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The Times and KFF survey also found that four in 10 working-class Americans had difficulty affording healthcare in the last year in spite of have job-based healthcare coverage. However, that figure has masked a large disparity among Americans.
Two-thirds of working-class Americans, who make less than $40,000 a year, said they had to struggle to pay for medical care in the previous year. And less than one-third of workers, who make at least $100,000 a year, said they had difficulty affording healthcare.
People who are working for low-wage employers had to pay approximately 40 percent of the cost of a family health plan. Most wealthy Americans are better positioned to adjust to higher health insurance deductibles.