Millions of Americans are without adequate health insurance in the United States, often because they are unemployed, self-employed or underemployed. This is because the vast majority of those insured are covered because their employers offer health insurance packages as a benefit of their employment.
But lately, some who are offered health insurance packages through their workplace are turning down the coverage because the cost of the plan is too expensive. This move, which was sometimes made by very young, healthy workers, is now becoming increasingly more common, despite the risks associated with it:
The rising cost of health insurance is pushing more South Florida employees to consider what had been unthinkable: Passing up medical coverage offered at work.
A strata of young, physically fit workers have always skipped employer health benefits they view as an unnecessary cost. But insurance agents say a growing number of older employees and even families are trying to save money by switching to low-priced health policies they buy on their own.
Insurance experts say employees can find credible, lower-cost coverage outside the workplace, through high-deductible plans. But they say it's a gamble because it takes a lot of work to find a good plan without big holes. Individual policies typically do not cover as much and often charge higher co-payments and deductibles. They also can raise your rates at will and drop you if you get sick.
"Dropping coverage at work? Generally a bad idea," said Carlos Castresana, South Florida unit leader at Wells Fargo Insurance Services, which designs health benefits for employers. "Even if you're healthy, you don't know if you'll get sick."
Yet more employees are thinking about it as they reach their open-enrollment period to sign up for 2012 coverage at work.
In a healthcare system where insurance plans are doled out by employers, but the nation is experiencing nearly 10% unemployment rates, there is bound to be a shift in how individuals choose to purchase insurance. However, the rising cost of insurance for employers is being passed along to employees, and more than ever before some workers are opting out of health coverage. Is it because they make less now? Is it because individual plans are cheaper? Is it because purchasing health insurance would mean not being able to afford the medications they provide, even at a discount?
You'd be hard pressed to argue that the health insurance system in the United States couldn't use some tweaking. But this trend in turning down employer-sponsored health insurance due to rising costs is unprecedented, and may be a sign of a shift in how Americans choose to take care of themselves.
Have you considered opting out of your employer's health insurance package? Know someone who has? Please tell us your stories of how you choose (or don't choose) to cover yourself and your family in case of medical emergency. Weigh in below.
[Photo by Quinn Dombrowski]