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Despite the cheery marketing, the health insurance industry is full of exploitation and abuse, as companies look out for their shareholders while screwing over patients and providers. But we wanted to know: Is there anything folks can do to protect themselves from corporate insurers’ worst practices? 

David Lipschutz, the Associate Director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, told The Lever that it’s difficult to offer blanket advice. “The system is so patchwork and convoluted that there are so many caveats depending upon what coverage you have and where you get it,” he said.

Tim Faust, author of the book, Health Justice Now: Single Payer And What Comes Next, agreed, noting that the United States has offloaded responsibility for maintaining health coverage onto individuals. “You must be the captain of your own paperwork and cross all the t's and dot all the i's,” he said, noting that this becomes “really hard to do if you're sick or working two jobs.”

The health insurance industry relies on obfuscation and inaccessibility to hoard profits, while spending huge sums lobbying against meaningful reform. Insurance executives make fortunes by denying care and passing on major costs to patients, making sick people fight to survive. 

A 2022 survey found that 41 percent of adults have medical or dental debt. Some experts predict that health care affordability is about to get even worse, as labor and supply chain issues stress an already tense system. Insurance premiums keep going up.

Everyone knows someone who’s struggled with a claim denial, difficulty finding a provider, or encountered a surprise bill — it’s the norm, not the exception.

While the odds appear stacked against you, there are things you can do to lessen your chances of a health insurance nightmare. The difference between a bad plan and a good plan, after all, could save you thousands of dollars — and potentially your life. Here’s what we found: