Does Health Insurance Equal Health Care?

More than 4 million people have now signed up for the Affordable Care Act, President Obama announced this week, and most of those will likely go on to pay their premiums and receive health insurance.

But does health insurance equal health care?

In an Atlantic article this week, a doctor argues that it doesn’t, at least in some cases. Helen Ouyang, an emergency-room physician in New York City, writes about her difficulty navigating the health-care system when she needed treatment for a corneal ulcer.

“My own experience makes me fear that for many Americans, health insurance may not necessarily equal health care,” she writes. “Access and cost will still remain barriers — and can be difficult to surmount for many.”

Reading Ouyang’s essay made me think about my own experiences navigating the health-care system. As a health reporter, it’s my job to try to understand the complexities of the system and find the holes in it — holes that can result in unnecessary mistakes, gaps in treatment or even deaths.

But even though I live and breathe California health-care reform at work, I can’t say it’s been easy to navigate at home. It can be time consuming, confusing and frustrating to wade through paperwork and wait on hold — especially when you have an urgent health need.

In this winter’s issue of the California Health Report magazine, I wrote about a few of the hurdles I encountered when the state ended the Healthy Families insurance program my daughter and 875,000 other kids were enrolled in.

More recently, I enrolled in Covered California, because before joining the California Health Report as the assignment editor this month, I worked as a freelance journalist. The private insurance I had last year, a no-frills plan, was canceled due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Figuring out the best plan for my family took several days and several calls to area providers. Still, I know from my own reporting that it could have been far worse.

In a story published Thursday, I write about the 24,000 low-income California residents who had health coverage last year and may have lost it with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Whether I’m out in the field reporting, at a dinner party or at the doctor’s office, these are the stories I hear: Insurance does not necessary equal access, affordability or good care. But going uninsured is even worse.

X Close

Subscribe to Our Mailing List