US Health Insurance Through the Years

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Explore the history of health insurance in the United States. Discover how the system has evolved over the years and learn about the challenges and changes it has faced.
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Health insurance is a form of insurance that protects against the risk of someone incurring medical expenses. Risk is shared amongst many people. Insurers could establish a financial structure, such as a monthly premium or payroll tax, to cover the health benefit provided in the insurance agreement to assess the overall health risk and health system expenses.

In the United States, health insurance refers to any plan which contributes to medical costs, whether through private insurance, social insurance, or a social welfare program financed by the Government.

Here is a quick timeline of US Health Insurance.

1895 – Labor unions began to offer some sort of protection from illnesses and injuries to fellow workers due to the dangerous nature of their work during the Industrial Revolution.

1905 – 1919 – The American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL), a US advocacy group for national health insurance, was founded. They actively supported social insurance.

1920 – After WWI ended, physicians and hospitals began to charge more, and the cost of healthcare became a significant problem for the average citizen.

1929 – To make healthcare more affordable, Blue Cross was formed by a local hospital and Dallas public school teachers. In their agreement, teachers will pay a set monthly amount in exchange for future medical care.

1939 – In lumber and mining camps in the Pacific Northwest, employers created Blue Shield to fund medical service bureaus made up of groups of physicians.

1960 – Medicare and Medicaid were created, providing insurance to the elderly and the poor, which eventually expanded its coverage.

1973 – The HMO Act was implemented to reduce costs of health care through more market competition and greater access to coverage for people.

1982 – Blue Cross and Blue Shield merged into one company and was called Blue Cross Blue Shield.

1985 – COBRA was enacted. It allows workers and their families to remain in the employee’s group health insurance plan for a limited time after changing employment.

1996 The HIPAA, which was signed into law by President Clinton, set industry-wide standards for medical records and placed restrictions on how pre-existing conditions could be handled in group health plans. This also includes eligibility for uninsured children up to age 19 in families with incomes too high to qualify them for Medicaid.

1997 – CHIP was established to provide coverage to children in families who earn high to be eligible for Medicaid but too low to purchase private insurance.

2010 – The ACA is signed into law. Medicaid eligibility was expanded, exchange-based health insurance became available, and insurance companies could not charge more due to pre-existing conditions. This also permits children to remain on their parent’s insurance plans until age 26.

In 2019, according to the Census Bureau, 92 percent of Americans had health insurance, leaving 8%, or 26.1 million, without coverage.

No one expects to become ill or injured, but the majority of individuals will require medical attention at some point. These expenses are covered by health insurance, which also comes with so many advantages.

  • Health insurance pays for health benefits that are necessary for maintaining your health and treating illnesses and injuries.
  • Health insurance safeguards you against unexpectedly expensive medical expenses.
  • Even before you reach your deductible, you pay less for covered in-network health care.
  • Even before you reach your deductible, you are entitled to free preventative care, such as immunizations, screenings, and some check-ups.
  • Now, health insurance also covers some telehealth practices such are Remote Patient Monitoring.

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