Health Care Issues
The current private, for-profit system of health care is expensive, inefficient, and discriminatory.
What Are The Issues
Most Americans are well aware of the many problems with the current health care system in the United States. Lack of access to affordable health insurance and rising health care costs is of great concern to many Americans. Many working families worry about getting sick or injured because they cannot afford health insurance or basic health care. Many individuals are turned away from insurance companies because of a pre-existing medical condition or illness. Others lose their health insurance when they are laid off from work or change jobs.
The dire health care situation can be seen in the numbers. More than 47 million people in the United States do not have health insurance and about 9 million of them are children. Over 40 million people a year do not get medical care when they need it, even if insured, because they can’t afford it. More than 8 out of 10 uninsured people are from working families. Thousands of deaths every year are attributed to lack of health insurance.
The issues to address in the reform of the health care system:
The cost of health insurance and health care is rising at a pace faster than wages and inflation. According to a study completed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, from the year 2000 to 2006, the overall inflation rate increased 3.5%, wages increased 3.8%, and health care premiums increased 87%. Most of the uninsured are working Americans who cannot afford the cost of health insurance.
Many Americans are able to afford health insurance only because it is subsidized by their employer. In 2006, the average health insurance premium for a family, provided through an employer health benefit program, was $11,480. Of this amount, the employee paid an average of $2,973 towards the premium.
Not only does employer-sponsored health insurance make it possible for many people to afford coverage, but group plans are generally less expensive than individual plans. This makes health insurance coverage very expensive for people who have to purchase health care insurance individually, either because they work at jobs that don’t offer employment health benefits or are self-employed.
Of the 84% of Americans with health insurance, approximately 60% get their health insurance through their employer, while only 9% of the insured purchase their own policies (the remaining insured get health coverage through the government; Medicaid, Medicare, or Military).
In our current health care system, the majority of health insurance coverage is tied to employment. When health insurance is tied to employment status, it can be very disruptive and inefficient. It is estimated that about 24% of the uninsured are without insurance because they lost their job or had a change in employment. People should not have to worry about what will happen to their health insurance or health care needs if they lose their job, change employers, take time off to raise a family, retire, become injured or disabled, or any other reason that affects employment. Health insurance should follow a person, not a job.
While the primary reason individuals do not have health insurance is because of cost, there are also many people who cannot get insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions. For some, their health insurance is actually cancelled and bills left unpaid due to their illness or injury. Under the current private health care system, insurance companies are profit-driven. If an applicant is considered high risk, they can refuse to sell them a health insurance policy.
For the uninsured, the lack of health insurance limits access to medical care such as preventative healthcare, check-ups, immunizations, dental care, prescriptions, eye exams, eyeglasses, and mental health care. Many of the uninsured have to live without proper medical care, even when it is needed, unless it is an emergency. This often causes smaller health problems to become even more serious, treatable health conditions are left untreated, more situations are treated in emergency rooms, and some may even die from preventable conditions.
The lack of accessibility to health care also affects children. Studies show that uninsured children are more likely to be sick, miss more school days, and perform more poorly in school than children with insurance. Many children suffer from asthma and cannot afford the treatment that will benefit their health and education. Many children cannot afford the recommended immunizations. Many children get ear infections that are not treated, leading to hearing loss.
While many low-income children qualify for Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), many families are unaware of these benefits and are not enrolled in the program. For these children, it is important to get the word out, increase enrollment, and help the families access the health care coverage available.