47 million people lack health insurance in the United States. Ninety-three percent of the increase is among middle and high income families. The emergency room becomes their healthcare provider. Those that have employer-sponsored plans often face rising premiums that cut into their paycheck. Either way, a chronic illness or medical emergency can leave them scrambling to pay thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in hospital and other bills.
In 1992, two years after I got my first job, I was laid off and offered COBRA, the continuation of my employer's health insurance. At the time, I decided to forego this coverage because I had only $750 in savings in the bank, and I also didn't want to use up my severance pay because I didn't know when I'd find my next job. Two months later, I had to be re-hospitalized and, without insurance, the hospital started to dun me even though I was making "good faith" payments towards my $5,000 bill.
Along with food, clothing and shelter, healthcare is a human right. Too many people have to choose between paying for insurance, and paying the rent and utilities and putting food on the table. So they go without, or get treatment only when it's too late. One solution to this problem is for the government to offer income-related tax credits so that people can purchase insurance on their own. This could be offered to people whose income is from $25,000 to $75,000.
Another problem is the cost of out-of-pocket premiums that workers pay for their health insurance. When I first started my current job seven years ago, my health insurance cost me $30 per paycheck, and it skyrocketed to $79 per paycheck. Luckily I could switch to a plan with no premium and only $3.75 for a mental health rider, but not everyone has this option.
Universal healthcare is touted as the solution. It's a step in the right direction, because the truth is, for people with schizophrenia, just finding a good doctor who takes Medicaid is the battle. My psychiatrist won't even take my private health plan because the HMO barely pays him what he feels he's worth. So the undercurrent is that I'm lucky I can afford the out-of-pocket fee.
The debate in the United States over uninsured Americans continues. My concern is that people who risk finding work and giving up their government disability benefits have a disincentive to stay employed if they don't have health benefits. The working poor and the invisible middle class face all sorts of "donut holes" in coverage that are really Swiss cheese holes because adequate solutions to the problem are shot down universally by the Republican and Democratic parties alike.
It's time to speak out. My Internet research simply wasn't satisfactory to me. The only solution that seemed doable was the idea about income tax credits. Each side spouts empty rhetoric, and I fear a solution is far away. This is an election year. Let's hold the candidates accountable for giving us a workable health plan that covers everyone living in this great country.
Published On: December 04, 2007