I have health care insurance and access to pretty good health care at an affordable price. However, there are nearly 50 million Americans without health care insurance. Many of them defer going to a doctor because of the cost when they initially get sick, at a time those with insurance would see a doctor. It’s a sad commentary on a rich country that so many people don’t get health care when they need it. It’s only when their condition deteriorates that they feel they must get health care. By then they may be so ill that they require expensive treatment. They go to an emergency room, where the hospital is required by federal law to treat them and bring them to at least a stable condition. If they don’t have enough money, they can’t pay. But the hospital has to somehow cover the costs of care (the salaries of physicians, nurses, aides, the cost of medical supplies, the cost of tests, etc.). That’s why private insurance premiums are higher by about $1700 per year than they would otherwise be. Those uncompensated costs have to be covered somehow.
Even people with health care insurance shouldn’t feel secure. Some health care insurance plans have very high deductibles. Most plans have a cap on how much the insurance company will pay out in total. If an individual gets a terrible disease, gets a lot of treatment, and exceeds the cap, that person is on his/her own from then on. No more help from the insurance company. In addition, insurance companies have been known to cancel the insurance of people who contract a disease because the insurance companies know they are going to have to pay out at lot of money to treat those people. Young, healthy people tend not to get insurance, and so the insurance companies screen out the people who are going to use a lot of health care so that they can make a profit.
Unfortunately, health care in the U.S. is largely dependent on private health care insurance companies making big profits. In this case the “invisible hand” of capitalism works to distribute resources, but not in a humane manner. The “invisible hand” is at the throats of the uninsured, and the invisible hand is choking them.
The World Health Organization recently ranked the U.S. health care system #37 in the world, and that is behind countries like Colombia and Morocco. In the U.S., a whopping 17% of the GDP goes to health care, and 15% of the population isn’t even covered by health care insurance. In countries with universal health care, only 10% of the GDP typically goes to health care. Clearly, U.S. citizens are paying too much for too little. The health care system needs reform.