By Brian Massey
Improving the health and wellness of individuals and communities involves understanding and addressing numerous conditions in our environment that can affect one’s health. These non-medical factors, including housing, transportation and access to healthy foods, account for 80 to 90 percent of a person’s health.
Amid this complexity, we all have an opportunity to take one imperative step to improve our health – purchase health insurance. Now is the time to seek out the right insurance for you and your family.
Open Enrollment is here, and the marketplaces are open for business. People who do not receive health insurance through an employer or the government can choose an insurance policy from the individual and small group insurance marketplace in their state. Until Dec. 15, Alabamians who are without health coverage for next year can visit HealthCare.gov to find a plan that best fits their needs.
Access to coverage is associated with many benefits including receiving timely preventive care services, better management of chronic health conditions, greater workforce participation and longer life expectancy. Mortality rates, generally, are 25 percent higher among people without insurance. Higher insurance rates also lead to lower personal and overall costs because having ready access to care prevents the exacerbation of conditions that lead to higher costs in the long run.
For several reasons, our state is experiencing an increase in the number of people without health insurance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Alabamians has risen from 9.4 percent in 2017 to 10 percent in 2018 (or 32,000 persons). Additionally, the number of individuals during the Open Enrollment period who selected or were automatically re-enrolled in an Exchange plan in Alabama decreased 2 percent in 2019 from the year prior, with just over 155,000 Alabamians selecting a plan.
It’s time for Alabamians to make their health plan decisions. Financial help in the form of subsidies that lower your monthly bill and reductions in out-of-pocket costs like copayments and deductibles is available for those who qualify. In fact, over 95 percent of Alabamians who enroll receive the benefit of a tax subsidy. Consumers should also take advantage of the in-person help and enrollment events offered in their communities. While Congress has removed the tax penalty for being uninsured, the benefits of insurance to one’s health is clear. It is a smart investment in yourself, your family and your health that is worth making.
At St. Vincent’s Health System, we are committed to delivering on our mission to provide compassionate, personalized care to all, and to achieve 100 percent access and 100 percent coverage in the communities we serve. Caregivers at our sites of care in Alabama and across the country want to see more people than ever before receive the care they need, with fewer struggling to pay for it.
If you are without health insurance or receive insurance from the individual or small group marketplace, it’s important to visit HealthCare.gov to find the insurance that is right for you. This crucial step will help keep you and your loved ones stay healthy. There is no better time than now to ensure you and your family get insured.
Brian Massey is Chief Advocacy Officer for Ascension Alabama, which operates hospitals in Jefferson, Mobile, St. Clair, Chilton, and Blount counties.