Despite Obamacare, health care costs in the United States are still astronomically high
My latest rant is about the rising US healthcare costs, and its effects on consumers. I was sorely reminded of this recently when I read about the Canadian woman who happened to go into labor while visiting the U.S. and ended up almost a million dollars in debt to the United States health care system.
Visitors to the U.S. from Canada must purchase health insurance before traveling to the States, so Jennifer Huculak and her husband purchased a travel policy from Blue Cross. They found out too late that it would not cover the premature birth of her baby in Hawaii because of their unsubstantiated claim she had a pre-existing condition of a high-risk pregnancy. The couple is now facing bankruptcy, because there is no way they can pay this unreasonable and unfair cost. There has even been a GoFundMe page started which has generated a few thousand dollars so far to help them, but it’s got a long ways to go to cover the exorbitant bill they are facing.
U.S. health care costs are blown so far out of proportion that it should be illegal. Take older citizens, for one example, who have paid into Social Security and Medicare their entire lives, and then once dependent on their benefits with an income much lower than they had been receiving while working, they still have to pay an average of $4000 per year on medical expenses that Medicare doesn’t cover. How do some of these people come up with this if their benefits are only $12,000 a year, or even much less? They are already paying over $100 a month for their Medicare premiums out of their monthly checks, and yet they are still liable for up to 20 percent of their health care costs.
As well, all health care insurance premiums have skyrocketed. In the decade beginning in 1999, the cost for a family of four increased by 131 percent according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which prompted legislative action in 2010 with the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010.
Since I’m talking about “affordable” health care, then you likely know that it recently became law for U.S. citizens to pay for their own health care. You may not be aware, however, that for those who aren’t able or willing to pay will be fined either 2% of their income or $325 per person in 2015, according to the HealthCare.gov website. The penalty increases each year, so in 2016 it becomes 2.5% of one’s wages or $696 per person, and so on.
Think about this a minute, and I’ll break it down for you. Let’s say you are an unmarried person, working full-time for minimum wage ($7.25 per hour.) Your gross income is a mere $15, 080 annually, which breaks down to $1256 per month. Let’s be generous and say that after taxes you have $900 to live on each month. Now you have to pay rent, utilities, food costs, transportation, clothing, and personal necessities. Can you spare a few hundred dollars to pay for your health care?
Likely you’ll have to budget carefully just to buy some cold medicine at your local pharmacy, and you’ll avoid going to the doctor unless you’ve broken a bone or are bleeding profusely. Now think about it, what if you were married with children, and one of you had to stay home with the kids, and the other was only earning minimum wage? Now you have childcare costs, extra food, clothing, school supplies, and a bigger apartment to try to juggle with your $900 per month. Not gonna happen, is it?
I have to ask several questions when I see these figures. First, where the hell does the U.S. government think a person can come up with money to spend on health care insurance, let alone the mandatory fines if they can’t? Why should health insurance be mandatory for adults? For children, yes, I think that if people are going to choose to have children, then they should be obligated to provide the necessary medical care that children require. But for individuals and married couples with no kids, they should have a choice as to whether to cover themselves or not.
I know, I know. Your comeback is that if they don’t carry their own insurance, then everyone else ends up paying for their health care costs. I will address this in a moment after I finish questioning (blasting) the system.
How can insurance companies possibly think that the average citizen can pay hundreds of dollars per month to carry a policy that may or may not cover all of their necessary health care? What is the purpose of having such high policy premiums? I won’t even go into the gender discrimination issues when it comes to the cost of the premiums (even though Obamacare makes some types of this discrimination illegal) because I would inevitably say something to set more people off on their own tangents.
So now I’m down to the crux of the whole issue. The health care profession itself is the problem. Medical providers, institutions, and pharmaceutical companies are charging out of this world prices for their products and services. Capitalism at its finest.
Journalist Steven Brill wrote in a Time Magazine article that after seven months of intense investigation, he found that health care costs are essentially arbitrary, inflated, and unfair. Reader’s Digest did their own research, and in their September 2012 article showed some of the ludicrous costs that hospitals charge, such as Tylenol for $15 a pill, a box of Kleenex (sometimes called a “mucus recovery system”) for $8, $10 for the little plastic cup they bring your medicine in, $23 per alcohol swab and – get this – $53 for a pair of non-sterile gloves! I hate to even imagine what they charge for sterile gloves.
Yet another example of highly inflated costs was mentioned in a Los Angeles Times article in 2011. A mother of a son with Crohn’s disease is billed for $38,000 for his medicine, although the hospital only pays $6300 per dose. OK, even the hospital’s price is utterly asinine. Where do these pharmaceutical companies get off on charging these kinds of prices?
Medscape published a report in 2013 showing the average income of U.S. physicians, with Orthopedic doctors earning over $350,000 a year, while cardiologists and urologists were close behind at $348,000 per year. I know that attorneys and athletes earn this much and more annually, but that’s another serious gripe for another post I will probably never write.
There are 33 developed countries on this planet, and 32 of these provide Universal Health Care. The United States is not one of them.
Dan Mundo wrote in his article for Forbes that the U.S. excels in many areas, but population health is not one of those areas. He shares the results of The Commonwealth Fund’s report in 2014 on overall health care, where they rated 11 countries on their overall health care and the U.S. ranked last. The report found that, more often than not, people in the U.S. go without needed health care because of costs – one-third or more lower-income adults went without needed care because of cost in 2013.
The U.S. also rated a poor performance on measures of national health expenditures and administrative costs compared to the other ten countries, each of which have universal health care. A poor score was also given for the overall health of people in the U.S. when viewing the mortality amenable to medical care, infant mortality, and healthy life expectancy at age 60.
Back to the dilemma of people not paying their own health care costs and the rest of society having to shoulder these costs? If voters would get their heads out of their [bleeps] and fight these grossly inflated costs medical providers and insurance companies are getting away with now, we could potentially and realistically see more people being able to cover their own expenses.
Medical providers and insurance companies target the wealthy, leaving the poor and the common folk – who make up the largest percentage of Americans – to suffer needlessly both in their own health care needs as well as in their finances.
I have not written this post in order to persuade anyone of how crucial it is that the U.S. adopt a universal health care system (although it should,) nor am I advocating that pharmaceutical companies stop their research and development. I have to unashamedly state my opinion that physicians and surgeons are charging outrageously and downright offensively for their services, especially when they can demand, for instance, $225 and up for a 5-minute face-to-face in an exam room, and much more if they stop in to speak to you for a few minutes at the hospital.
I’m simply sharing facts here. It’s up to you, the reader, to figure out just how often and how seriously you’re being raped by the entire health care industry, and it’s up to you to decide what you are going to do now that it’s out in the open.