The Health Crisis in America: Too Many Uninsured
An overwhelming number of Americans do not have health insurance. This number changes depending on the study you read, however, the number is immense no matter what, and no one is debating that we do not currently have a health care crisis in the United States. So why are so many Americans without adequate health insurance?
One of the major reasons is the rise in health insurance premiums. Premiums have continued to rise in both the group and individual market. In a company that I work with, health insurance premiums rose 30% this year alone. The company was faced with the decision of lowering coverage, asking its employees to pay a portion of the coverage or no longer offering health insurance as a benefit. This company chose to lower the benefits of the insurance plan. Although, with the increased cost of insurance, the employees will probably not get the same type of pay raise, therefore, the employees are indirectly helping to pay for the rise in costs. The individual market is even worse. The larger health insurance companies often have a near-monopoly in any given area. Recent mergers help to keep one company in control within a geographic area. This leaves out competition to help keep prices lower.
In addition, there is little consumer protection for individuals purchasing health insurance. In my state, companies are able to reject coverage on anyone. For those with pre-existing conditions, this means even if they can afford coverage, they may not be able to get it. Pre-existing conditions that limit insurance are not necessarily limited to cancer or heart conditions. My husband sells health insurance and one of his clients was denied coverage based on a case of lyme disease two years ago. If individuals with previous health conditions are offered coverage, they are offered so with higher premiums. These increases can be up to 50% to 100% more than individuals without previous health conditions.
Because of higher premiums, some companies have elected to discontinue offering health insurance. Their employees must now go uninsured or purchase private individual insurance. Since many of these workers are in lower income brackets, becoming one of the millions of American's without health insurance is more often the choice. Without the benefit of employer based health coverage, they simply cannot afford monthly premiums. Many of these people are also not eligible for state insurance programs. State insurance programs often target uninsured children and leave many workers poor, but not poor enough to be eligible for state coverage.
Health insurance premiums have been on the rise for a number of other reasons as well. The cost of hospital care and prescription drugs has risen tremendously. Malpractice insurance in many states has made practicing medicine more and more expensive. In addition, medical advances offer patients new and innovative treatment, providing better care and more hope for recovery. These advances, and the research that has led to them, cost money and it is through medical costs and insurance premiums that we pay for it.
The health care crisis in American needs desperately to be addressed. The number of uninsured people is continuing to rise. People continue to put off medical care because they can't afford it. Somehow, there must be a better way.
Wrong Direction: One Out of Three Americans are Uninsured, Families USA, 2007