KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Economy Squeezing Access To Health Care

As unemployment rises, many Florida women are "turning to federally subsidized mammograms and pap smears, and county health officials are worried they could be overwhelmed," The Orlando Sentinel reports. "Since 1990, the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] has provided free and low-cost mammograms and pap smears to uninsured or underinsured women between 40 and 64 years old. In Florida, only women 50 to 64 years old qualify. Although the number of women screened in Florida through this federal program has increased through the years, unemployment in women 55 to 64 years old has nearly doubled, from 3.4 percent in 2008 to 6.3 percent now. Demand always has exceeded available services - only 15 percent of eligible women get the breast exams, according to the CDC - but the number of women who will now qualify for the free tests is expected to outstrip the funding provided by Congress" (Maza, 7/15).

Several columns today also examine access to care issues:

"Some studies suggest that the quilt-work system of employee-paid health care is discouraging entrepreneurship," The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Bill Toland writes. "That's because of what's known as "job lock," which means that "you're more likely to stay in your current job, which offers health insurance, than take a chance on a startup business, where health expenses would come out of your pocket. So people are 'locked' into jobs that they no longer enjoy, where they are economically unproductive, or so the theory goes."

"Some argue that health care insurance (or lack of it) isn't a statistically significant entrepreneurial deterrent, since most covered workers have the option of continuing their health coverage after they leave work, via the federal COBRA law. Others note that universal coverage doesn't exist in a vacuum -- if entrepreneurial activity ticks up, but overall economic demand ticks down because of the tax costs of universal health care, then that's bad for new entrepreneurs (as well as the old, successful entrepreneurs, who may be less inclined to take new risks with the money they've made)  (Toland, 7/15).

The Los Angeles Times' David Lazarus says that insurance companies may treat organ donors as having a preexisting condition. "Medical experts and people involved with organ transplants say that by not making clear what the financial risk to an organ donor may be, insurers are putting people in danger of losing affordable coverage and discouraging potential donors from helping others." But "this is a blurry aspect of the healthcare system, and "there is little empirical evidence to back up" the idea that insurers treat organ donation as a preexisting condition (Lazarus, 7/15).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.