• Waiting periods for insurance

    A commenter (and some emails) on my last post on the Congressman Andy Harris insurance debacle tried to make the point that what upset the Congressman was the waiting period.  After all, in Rep. Harris’ own words:

    “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed”

    If that’s the case, then the Congressman should count himself lucky.  Because according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (emphasis mine):

    Seventy-four percent of covered workers face a waiting period before coverage is available. Covered workers in the Northeast are less likely (64%) than workers in other regions to face a waiting period. Covered workers in retail (90%), health care (86%), and agriculture/mining/construction (85%) firms are more likely than workers in other industries to face a waiting period (Exhibit 3.7).

    * The average waiting period among covered workers who face a waiting period is 2.2 months (Exhibit 3.7). Thirty-one percent of covered workers face a waiting period of 3 months or more (Exhibit 3.8).

    Yes, waiting periods are hard.  Yes, people are exposed and at risk if they are uninsured during them.  When I was a resident, I remember a fellow intern begging the Children’s Hospital emergency department to sew up a laceration for him so that he wouldn’t have to pay another to do it for him, as our insurance didn’t kick in on day one.  So if Congressman Harris has never experienced a waiting period, well good for him.  Most people, if they are lucky enough to have insurance, not only have experienced waiting periods, but the majority of them have experienced much longer periods than he will.

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    • Waiting periods for people changing jobs and with insurance at their previous job really aren’t a big deal. The Congressman, and others in similar positions, typically have the option of COBRA coverage from their previous position.

      The Kaiser piece you linked to disagrees with your assertion that a majority of people with coverage have experienced much longer waiting periods than in this case. Actually, the study shows that in 2010, most people either had no waiting period or a waiting period of a month.

    • Thomas,

      You’re splitting hairs here and missing the point. While certainly, the Kaiser data reflects that, overall the majority of covered workers will face a waiting period of one month or less, you fail to note the difference in these numbers when comparing coverage in large vs compared with that of small firms. In the small firms, fully half of covered persons will face a waiting period of greater than one month.

      And, as long as we’re splitting hairs, don’t you think it would be very interesting to see the MEDIAN waiting period broken out by industry, firm size and coverage type? Since I work in the industry, I know I would find it very interesting….and probably isn’t something most carriers would want to have made widely known.

    • I think everyone is missing the point here.
      If we had truly “universal” coverage (either public or private) then no one would have to face the potentially financially catastrophic situation of being without coverage.
      Our patchwork of private employer, spotty public “safety net” and private self coverage guarantees that a good proportion (currently about 50 million) people don’t have insurance at any given time. As my wife keeps reminding me, we are only an accident (ski, automobile) away from financial ruin without insurance.

    • Does anyone know why there is a waiting period?

      Is it because people would wait until a need for insurance arises? Or is it administrative in nature? Or is it simply a matter of ‘we have always done it this way, so why change?”