Unlike most developed nations, the US health system does not provide health care to the country’s entire population. Instead, most citizens are covered by a combination of private insurance and various federal and state programs. As of 2017, health insurance was most commonly acquired through a group plan tied to an employer, covering 150 million people. Other major sources include Medicaid, covering 70 million, Medicare, 50 million, and health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) covering around 17 million. In 2017, a study found that 73% of plans on ACA marketplaces had narrow networks, limiting access and choice in providers.
I have excellent healthcare. I have private insurance (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield) and Medicare because I am on disability. Even with this healthcare, I spend between $15,000 and $20,000 per year on healthcare. Roughly 18% of Americans are uninsured. That does not include the number of Americans that are underinsured. Those uninsured and underinsured can’t afford proper medical care, so many go without seeing a doctor or getting necessary prescriptions, leading to approximately 60,000 preventable deaths per year.
Now, politically I am somewhere in the middle. I am fiscally conservative and environmentally and socially more liberal. My problem is I believe we need major healthcare reform, and I support a single-party payer or universal healthcare, but I have no idea how we could ever pay for it. Don’t translate my views and think I am a socialist because I am not. Most countries in the world that provide universal healthcare are not socialist; they are democratic nations.
One of the worst things that can happen to someone without healthcare is to be hospitalized. When they get out, they are burdened with sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars of healthcare debt that they will never be able to pay. This puts a severe burden on the individual and the hospital, who often has to write off a large portion of this debt. The Affordable care Act was supposed to resolve this problem, but let me tell you there is nothing affordable about it. When I first went on disability, my wife was working for a company that did not provide health insurance, so I had to go to the Health Exchange to look for insurance or pay for Cobra. When I went to the Health Exchange, I found that I would have premiums of roughly $1,200 per month for subpar coverage. The Affordable Care Act has done absolutely nothing to provide affordable healthcare. Luckily my wife was hired by a different company that offered excellent health coverage.
I know a lot of uninsured or underinsured people, and I see them rationing prescriptions, not seeing a doctor, and not getting the treatment they need. On the other hand, I have a friend that is Canadian who is married to an American who, while living in Canada, had a life-threatening medical problem. It was going to take over nine months for her to be seen by a specialist, so they moved back to the US to be treated immediately. Without immediate treatment, she could have died. Countries with universal healthcare do not have all the answers. It isn’t easy to see a specialist because they are so back-logged. I don’t know what the answer is, but something has to be done.
I haven’t even discussed the topic of those with preexisting conditions. If you are like me and have preexisting conditions, getting affordable health insurance is nearly impossible. Unless you can get on a group plan through an employer, you will be charged considerably higher rates because of those conditions. Why is it that those that need healthcare the most have the hardest time accessing it?
Like I said earlier, I don’t know the answer, but the current system is not the answer. People are dying, suffering, and going bankrupt because of the lack of availability of medical care. The United States is consistently ranked as having one of the worst healthcare systems in all developed countries. How can one of the wealthiest countries in the world have such lousy healthcare? This ranking isn’t based on the quality of healthcare, as there are many brilliant physicians and many exceptional hospitals in the US. It is based on affordability and access to good healthcare. There has to be a solution that doesn’t drive up US debt but provides affordable healthcare to US citizens.
- ^ a b Institute of Medicine. Committee on the Consequences of Uninsurance (January 13, 2004). Insuring America’s health: principles and recommendations. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-309-52826-9.
- ^ Access to health care in America. Institute of Medicine, Committee on Monitoring Access to Personal Health Care Services. Millman M, editor. Washington: National Academies Press; 1993.
- ^ a b c “The Decline of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance”. commonwealthfund.org. Retrieved November 25, 2018.