QUOTE (K_Green @ Jan 13 2009, 10:09 PM)
Increasing numbers of people in the U.S. are facing problems with medical debt, an issue likely to figure "prominently in the looming national debate over reforming health care," Kaiser Health News/Washington Post reports. The "booming economy" of the previous two decades "camouflaged the burden of medical debt," as consumers were able to borrow against their homes or charge medical bills to credit cards; however, "falling house prices and tightening credit have eliminated those options for many," according to Kaiser Health News/Post.
"Unlike other forms of consumer debt, ... medical debt is typically involuntary and unplanned, the result of necessity, not desire," according to Kaiser Health News/Post. Medical costs also can have a "snowball" effect, as not paying bills can result in lawsuits, garnished wages, liens and bad credit ratings.
According to the Commonwealth Fund, 72 million U.S. adults younger than age 65 had difficulty paying medical bills or are paying off medical debt in 2007, an increase from 58 million in 2005. Many of those had insurance and 39% said they had exhausted their savings paying for medical bills. Karen Pollitz, director of Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, said, "People who are underinsured end up facing almost identical problems as the uninsured," adding, "The difference is, they paid for the privilege."
President-elect Barack Obama has said he supports an exemption for medical debt in new bankruptcy laws. A few states have laws that aim either to expand health coverage or prevent medical debt. Kaiser Health News/Post reports that some experts believe a national effort to standardize health benefits and make them more comprehensive will help minimize consumers' out-of-pocket costs and tackle the problem of medical debt. A few states have tried to address the issue through laws that aim either to expand health coverage or protect medical debtors.
American Enterprise Institute economist Thomas Miller said that the issue of medical debt has been exaggerated and is a symptom of larger economic troubles (Boodman , Kaiser Health News/Washington Post, 1/13).
As one of those 72 million who are having trouble with medical debt, let me just bang the drum once again for nationalized health care. "Coverage" will never be CARE. As long as insurance companies have control over our entire health care system, the people who aren't wealthy, who need care the most will continue to be shafted. Capitalism DOES NOT WORK in this one area, for the simple reason that no one should profit from someone else's illness or suffering.
After 4 uninsured days in the hospital, I will now be paying off $30,000 of bills for the rest of my life. I "make too much" (I bring home $2100 per month) to qualify for Medicaid, for sliding fee scales or for financial assistance of any kind. Right now I'm paying over $200 per month to 7 medical creditors. And don't get me started on co-pays and deductibles (the reason I cancelled my insurance in the first place) or pre-existing conditions (I am now paying $100 per month for insurance that won't cover anything diabetes-related until 10/09).
On the other side of the coin, I happen to know what TPAN has paid for employees' health insurance and it is a staggering amount. If we weren't a non-profit that could include some of this cost under contracts for our programming, it would be easy to see how going out of business would always be a looming possibility. As more and more businesses fail and unemployment soars, economists and other establishment voices tell us not to worry - COBRA will be extended! But if you're out of work, with no savings, a decimated 401K and your piddly stock investments have tanked (if you even had any to begin with), how are you going to pay $900 - $1200 a MONTH for COBRA?? As foreign automakers survive without the burden of paying for their employees' health care, U.S. carmakers beg for bailouts. Try as they might to maintain the current dependency on the concept of insurance, sooner or later it seems it will be undeniably clear that the U.S. MUST find a way to do what Canada, France and Cuba, among others, have done and provide government-run health care for ALL its citizens. People moan about waiting weeks or months for a doctor's appointment or not being able to choose their providers. What if we innovative Americans figured out a way to do it without those drawbacks? What if every citizen was allowed to find the doctor (or alternative practitioner) that was right for them, understanding that in non-emergency situations there might be a wait to see him/her? What if emergency rooms and urgent care centers were expanded and staffed and operated more efficiently so that after initial triage, each patient was sent to a continuing treatment location to receive whatever care was necessary? What if every single piece of equipment and every kind of supply cost a standardized amount? What if fees for every procedure were standardized across the board? What if the money we all pay now for Medicare/Medicaid plus an additional 7% of our income went to pay for this national system? I would gladly pay the $100 plus more that Blue Cross is currently getting out of my monthly income if I knew I would never again have to agonize over whether I could pay the bill to see my doctor or if I could just put it off a few more months. No more co-pays, no more yearly deductibles that are more than I can afford. No more spiking blood pressure or blood sugar levels due to the stress of hounding calls and letters from medical creditors. Our new president has some good ideas about increasing efficiency and quality of care - now he just has to understand that for that 72 million of us, plus more every day, there is no such thing as AFFORDABLE health insurance. When you can't even afford a $10 co-pay, how the hell are you going to pay for health insurance?
OK, this is too long and I'm afraid I could go on and on - sorry, everybody! It's obviously something that's urgently important to me! Is there anyone out there who can give me a good argument FOR health insurance? Bring it on!