Although the District’s uninsured rate has fallen in recent years, many of DC’s most vulnerable patients are struggling to keep up with the premium payments necessary to maintain their health care coverage. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was an important step to help increase access to health care locally, without a sustainable solution to address the rising cost of treatment, thousands of DC residents could be left out in the cold. Fortunately, local charitable assistance programs have stepped in to serve as a temporary bridge to care, at no added cost to the public.
As health insurers increase premiums and patient out-of-pocket costs, the cost of simply maintaining the insurance coverage necessary to manage chronic and life-threatening conditions – including cancer, HIV/AIDS, hemophilia, rheumatoid arthritis, and others – has become prohibitive for many DC residents. When costs become too high for patients, evidence suggests that they skip vital treatments or undertreat, which can lead to deteriorating patient health outcomes or even death.
But patient health is not the only thing that suffers when treatment becomes too expensive. People who cannot afford the treatments they need to manage their conditions are often too ill to regularly attend work, which can result in the loss of employment, insurance, and even their homes. Still others seek help from government programs or visit hospitals for primary care, which drives up the uncompensated care costs paid for by DC tax dollars.
No patient should ever have to choose between meeting their health care needs and confronting financial ruin.
In the face of rising costs, local non-profit patient assistance programs have stepped in to serve as a temporary bridge to life-saving and life-sustaining treatments for those in dire need. Importantly, these local assistance programs help alleviate the onerous financial pressures that patients face through charitable contributions, which means improved health for DC patients without a dime of added health costs for DC government or taxpayers.
It is not hyperbole to suggest that if non-profit patient assistance programs did not exist, people would die.