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Connecticut Consumers Speak Out Over Health Care Costs

Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN

Lara Herscovitch says that her transition to working as a freelance musician has been “joyful,” but there have been some challenges. Since the former Connecticut state troubadour left her full time job, Hersovitch’s health care costs have increased over 600 percent.

She expects that she will end the year with more than $6,300 in medical expenses, including monthly premiums. Herscovitch has only been to her doctor once this year. When she worried she had Lyme disease, she waited for symptoms to manifest before seeking care.

Many consumers delay medical attention, tests and procedures because of cost concerns, The Litchfield County Times reports.

In interviews, consumers said they are delaying medical procedures, withdrawing money from retirement savings to pay bills, cutting back on big-item purchases, and even putting off planned vacations.

The high costs for even routine medical matters, like visits to the doctor and bloodwork, are causing some consumers to have to make difficult decisions. Herscovitch says she has considered moving:

“Health care costs are eating into my personal and business costs… I love Connecticut and don’t want to leave, but all my musician friends rave about affordable health care in Massachusetts, which has me wondering if I should move.”

Studies show that high deductible insurance plans are becoming more prevalent, leaving consumers paying more.

Recently, the state reduced the premium increases it would approve for ConnectiCare and Anthem from 12.3 percent to 2.72 percent. A spokesman from the department said that consumers have to worry about more than just the price of premiums these days.

“In the past people were looking at just premiums. Now they have to look at deductibles and co-pays,” said Gerald O’Sullivan, director of Consumer Affairs at the state Insurance Department[.]

As consumers have been asked to pay more, the state Insurance Department has received more complaints. The department received 37 complaints for ER visits in the first three quarters of 2018.

Overall, the Consumer Affairs division addressed 5,800 complaints and inquiries last year and helped policyholders recoup nearly $4.8 million in 2017.

This spring, CQC found that consumers worry more about health care related costs than they do about the costs associated with retirement, college, housing and child care.

The anxiety over medical bills makes sense, given consumers stories. Also featured in The Litchfield County Times story are:

  • The Goldsteins who’s insurance company declined to cover an emergency department visit when Lauren Goldstein couldn’t stop vomiting. She received fluids by IV, but the $3,094 bill was denied because “it wasn’t a medical emergency.”
  • Jake Tefford, who incurred debt despite having private insurance through his employer and was forced to take out a loan against his 401(k) to pay off two ED visits for a migraine and a shoulder surgery.
  • Erin Nowak, who had to pay out-of-pocket for her routine bloodwork for the first time in her life this year, and who, when suffering from post-partum depression had to pay out-of-pocket for each therapist visit until her $5,000 deductible was met.

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