Q&A: Ohioans Feeling The Pinch On Health Insurance Premiums And Deductibles

[Photo/ Shutterstock]
The Commonwealth Fund's new reports show how the state compares to others when it comes to health issues and cost-of-care. [Photo/ Shutterstock]
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Ohio has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths compared to any other state, and more than one-third of the state’s population is obese, according to a new report released on Wednesday by the nonprofit healthcare research group the Commonwealth Fund

The Commonwealth Fund's state report card shows Ohio has made some improvements, but is lagging behind other states on some key health issues.

Be Well health reporter Marlene Harris-Taylor spoke with Commonwealth researcher Sara Collins, and joined Morning Edition host Amy Eddings to discuss this report and a different Commonwealth report which shows people with employer-based health insurance are being squeezed by high deductibles and co-pays.

We know that there is a drug overdose problem in Ohio but according to this new report, Ohio is 50th out of 51  only the District of Columbia fared worse.

Yes, Commonwealth compared different states to the national average on different health measures and, like others have before, Collins called Ohio’s overdose problem a crisis.

 “The rate of drug poisoning deaths, or drug overdose deaths, have more than doubled since 2013 so that is a major area of concern,” said Collins.

This report card is based on data from 2016 and 2017, but even if you look at numbers that are more recent the trajectory of deaths is not going down, Collins said. This issue has gotten a lot of attention and resources but it persists. 

Locally, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office sent out a warning just last month that there was a spike in deaths — seven people died from overdoses over a two-day period.

Another area of concern in this report is Ohio’s obesity rate.

Yes, more than one-third of adults in Ohio are obese, which is higher than the national average, Collins said.

 “And that actually worsened from our baseline, and even among children it’s about 32%,” she said.

Obesity is an important indicator because it can lead to many other issues like heart disease and diabetes.

The report also notes that Ohio is doing worse than the national average in the number of breast cancer deaths and preventable hospitalizations (people going to the hospital when a doctor could have treated them earlier).

The Commonwealth Fund released another report, just a few weeks ago, that pointed out that rising insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles are hitting people hard who rely on their jobs for insurance coverage. In fact, they found those costs are deterring some people from going to the doctor.

According to the report, the burden of high health costs is worse in Ohio for people with employer-based insurance than the national average. When you combine what people pay for premiums with out-of-pocket costs, the median yearly cost in Ohio is $4,200, which is about $500 more than the national number. Nationally premium and out-of-pocket costs for employees ranges from $1,500 a year in Hawaii to over $5,500 in South Dakota.

What is behind those numbers? Why are costs increasing?

Providers, which are hospitals and doctors, keep raising rates, said Collins.

“Providers will try to get a higher and higher price, and insurers pass those higher prices on from hospitals and physicians to employers, and employers in turn try to raise deductibles and cost-sharing, and so the employee is kind of left holding the bag,” Collins said.

Hospitals and doctors will point out that pricing and cost-of-care are complex issues. Nonprofit hospitals, like the ones here in the Cleveland area, generally report that their profit margins are very small.

I understand that Commonwealth suggests the solution to these rising health care costs may involve state and federal lawmakers stepping in.

The reports suggests new laws should be passed that make more items in health plans free. Many employers cover things like yearly physicals at no costs. Commonwealth would like more things in health plans moved into that free category. The report also suggests that Congress could mandate these things be provided at no costs. It also suggests a refundable tax credit for people who have huge out-of-pocket costs in employer-sponsored health plans. 

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