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Report: More people seek health insurance help Posted: May 7th, 2012

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.

Patients increasingly are looking for help to navigate health insurance needs and concerns, according to a report from the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF).

PAF reports the number of individuals served by its case management program jumped 24.3 percent in 2011. Last year, PAF assisted 103,112 people, an 86.2 percent increase from 2009.

People seek the help of PAF regarding issues related to health insurance access, medical debt and job retention. PAF's annual report compiles information from PAF case management records to track trends in health insurance coverage. The report also identifies obstacles to receiving adequate care.

Cancer patients seek help most often

While PAF serves patients with a diversity of health backgrounds, cancer patients made up the majority of those seeking assistance from the organization in 2011. Last year, 69 percent of those involved in PAF case management program were cancer patients. In addition, nearly one in four utilizing the program reported having more than one health problem.

According to the report, the price of treatments was cited as one of the most common concerns by those contacting PAF. More than 31 percent indicated this was their reason for enrolling in the case management program.

Limited medical insurance access and employment issues may have contributed to concerns about paying for treatment. Among those enrolled in commercial health insurance plans:

  • 26.3 percent were unemployed, many as a result of their medical condition.
  • 16.9 percent were using COBRA benefits, which is often a less affordable health insurance option.
  • 65 percent earned less than $34,000 annually.

PAF also notes that for the first time since 2007, Medicare beneficiaries surpassed the uninsured when it came to requesting case management services. Commercially insured patients were the largest group requesting help.

Patients from all 50 states requested assistance, although Texas was the top referral state in 2011. PAF notes one in 10 of its case management clients resided in Texas last year. Florida ranked number two in terms of referrals.

PAF also reported an increase in the number of patients seeking help on issues related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Of those requesting assistance regarding health reform provisions, 81 percent had eligibility and enrollment questions regarding state Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans.