Arizona’s high uninsured rate means that hundreds of thousands of people are living in fear of medical emergencies and unforeseen expenses.
An Insurance Crisis in Arizona
Over 900,000 Arizonans are uninsured, according to a 2014 analysis by personal finance website Wallet Hub. As the fifteenth most densely populated state, that 900,000-plus figure makes up 13.6% of the overall population, which places Arizona eleventh in a ranking of the highest uninsured percentage of uninsured citizens in the U.S. For consideration, the national average in 2014 was 11.7% with the highest percentage in any state at 19.06%, and lowest at 3.28%.
One of the problems with Arizona’s insurance marketplace is the spotty history of KidsCare, Arizona’s version of Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. CHIP is a program geared towards families whose income is too high to qualify them for Medicaid but who might otherwise not be able to afford insurance for their children. The Phoenix New Times reports that in 2014, KidsCare was disbanded completely, making Arizona the only state without CHIP. As a result, 10% of Arizonans under the age of eighteen were unprotected by health insurance in 2014, ranking Arizona in the bottom five of all fifty states for this age group.
Remarkably, these rates still reflect a vast improvement over the last few years. According to the Arizona Republic, the Affordable Care Act has provided 215,000 Arizonans with health insurance who previously had none. In 2013, a staggering 17.1% of the population did not have health insurance – a 3.5% drop in one year. This decrease is due to the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, which has increased the number of people eligible for the program and made it easier for parents to apply for health insurance for themselves and their children.
Consequences of Living without Insurance
For the nearly one million Arizonans who aren’t insured, medical expenses, especially unexpected ones, can be catastrophic. Broken bones, ambulances, and hospital stays can rack up tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. These unexpected medical expenses may force families without a sufficient safety net to empty their savings, take out large loans that drag down their credit scores, or even declare bankruptcy.
Even under the Affordable Care Act, those without insurance are still required to pay a fee. Americans not enrolled in a health insurance plan – and who aren’t exempt due to low income, religious reasons or extenuating circumstances – must pay an individual mandate, which could cost each family member several hundred dollars.
Arizonans who are uninsured due to their inability to afford health insurance should check to see if they qualify for Medicaid. They can also look into HSA (Health Savings Account) plans, which are tax-favored savings accounts that can help counteract the cost of a high-deductible insurance plan, such as those often offered by employers.
Insurance alternatives such as SingleCare can also provide a valuable way for families to safeguard against catastrophe, by helping them be proactive with their healthcare. SingleCare negotiates lower fees with medical professionals than the out-of-pocket rates. Unlike typical insurance, however, SingleCare doesn’t require members to pay a premium, and only for services used at the negotiated rate. With SingleCare membership cards, members are able to access medical services that often aren’t covered by insurance, such as physical therapy, and purchase prescription medications at reduced prices.
(Main image credits: Saguaro tonda/Thinkstock)