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Journalist Noam Levey on health care access and affordability

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Two men talk in a forum setting.
University of Minnesota professor Larry Jacobs (left) and Los Angeles Times journalist Noam Levey speak about health care affordability at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Dec. 10, 2019.
Courtesy of Lea Chittenden

Noam Levey spoke at the University of Minnesota earlier this month about his research and reporting on health care access and affordability.

Levey is an award-winning health care policy journalist for the Los Angeles Times, and his research shows why many Americans have difficulty paying for health care — even if they have health insurance provided by their employer.

A year's worth of reporting and research yielded an important LA Times/Kaiser Family Foundation series on health care in America.

While many middle-class Americans have health insurance provided by their employers, in the last 10 to 15 years “deductibles (have) gone through the roof,” according to Levey’s research. “In 2006, nearly half of American workers had a health plan that had no deductible at all. Thirteen years later, now it is about 17 to 18 percent of of workers.”

One policy intended to restrain health care costs is to “turn patients into shoppers,” Levey said. Consumer pressure may work in other areas of the economy, but it’s difficult to “shop” for all but a few medical services. “We never got the price transparency that you need for the market to function. And, the system is opaque for a reason.”

“People aren’t able to ‘shop’ and prices have not been brought under control. People are angry,” Levey said, and his interviews and surveys show that people don’t want to think about shopping for health care services. “They want to defer to what their doctor says.”

Levey spoke Dec. 10 at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School. After his speech, he answered questions in a session moderated by professor Larry Jacobs.