Everyone gets sick. Disease does not discriminate. For this reason alone everyone should agree that health care, or access to it, is a basic human right and not a privilege for those with money. I wouldn’t call myself rich but I’ve always had insurance. At times the plans weren’t the best and I always felt I was paying more than I should, but at least I had it. Many of my friends can’t say the same.
Why has this issue become so political? Why has it divided families and friends? The Affordable Care Act was actually a Republican plan which came out of a Republican think tank. When it was first introduced I thought, finally! We might actually get something passed to benefit the people. A Republican plan introduced by a Democratic president. Who could argue with that? Wow, was I wrong!
The theory behind the plan was to increase the population pool so that insurance companies could take on pre-existing conditions and those with higher risk while still keeping the premiums lower. This is why the first punch, in the way of concessions to not mandate participation, was such a major blow. It is true there has been a significant increase in insured people but most of these people either have pre-existing conditions or some other problem for which they were unable to get insurance before. These people now have some coverage; some protection. The problem is the younger, healthier people still aren’t signing up. Because of this the insurance companies actually have to pay on more claims because there aren’t the healthy people to balance out the pool and the risk.
Next year the average premiums in the state of Wisconsin will increase by 7.4%. We will see the 4th highest increase in the nation. That’s the average. Your plan may actually increase by 20% depending on your insurance company and policy. The insurance companies say they have to raise the rates to cover the payouts and that they are not running charities.
They are not, that’s true. According to Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 in 2010 the 10 largest for-profit insurers outperformed the entire S&P 500. CEO’s of the top 5 companies went home with between $10-$15million each last year.
Regardless of what you think about the Affordable Care Act, the truth is it’s a step closer to solving the problem. However it’s not even close to being enough. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, between 46.2% and 54.5% of all bankruptcies were caused, at least in part, by illness or medical debts. This means medical bankruptcy involved between 1,850,098 and 2,227,000 Americans in 2001. The number of medical bankruptcies increased approximately 2200% between 1981 and 2001. High medical bills contributed to 60% of medical bankruptcies, with drug costs, which were a major problem for those on Medicare and many with psychiatric disorders, contributing to 48%. In 35% of cases lost income due to illness was a factor.
How can this happen in one of the richest countries in the world? How can we call ourselves world leaders when we are standing by while our people file bankruptcy because they were unfortunate enough to get sick? What if you were to get sick? Would you fare any better?
Unfortunately we can’t blame this only on the government, insurance companies or even hospitals. This is a tangled web and all parties are to blame. The rising cost of health care and prescriptions needs to be contained. The point is we need to come together and have those hard discussions to figure out what we can do for the majority of the population. All parties need to have representation at the table during the discussion. That’s why it’s so important to elect representatives that will have your best interest in mind when the time comes for them to sit at that table. I will be that representative.