Coverage Caps Leave Some Insured With High Bills
The "number of Americans burdened with massive medical bills has soared," and hospital bills that exceed $1 million, "while still unusual, are becoming more common as insurance policies once thought to provide catastrophic coverage prove inadequate when it comes to high-cost illnesses," the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, 34% of U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 face problems with medical bills or have medical debt, although 62% of those individuals have health insurance.
"Part of the problem" is that, "as medical progress and new technologies raise health care costs, health plans have been slow to raise their" lifetime caps on coverage, the Journal reports. In addition, the "widespread practice of bill padding by hospitals and other health providers" has led to increased health care costs for patients, according to the Journal.
Hospitals "say bill padding is their only defense against the aggressive cost-reduction efforts of insurers and government programs," but the "end result is that individuals can, with little warning, be left stuck with wildly inflated medical bills," the Journal reports.
The Journal profiled Jim Dawson, who developed a bacterial skin infection that required five months of hospitalization. During that time, Dawson, who had health insurance, accrued a $1.2 million hospital bill after he exceeded his $1.5 million lifetime cap on coverage (Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal, 11/29).