"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." ? Frédéric Bastiat, French economist
Americans can no longer afford to get sick and there's a reason why.
That's because a growing number of Americans are struggling to stretch their dollars far enough to pay their bills, get out of debt and ensure that if and when an illness arises, it doesn't bankrupt them.
This is a reality that no amount of partisan political bickering can deny.
Many Americans can no longer afford health insurance, drug costs or hospital bills. They can't afford to pay rising healthcare premiums, out-of-pocket deductibles and prescription drug bills.
They can't afford to live, and now they can't afford to get sick or die, either.
To be clear, my definition of "affordable healthcare" is different from the government's. To the government, you can "afford" to pay for healthcare if your income falls above the poverty line. That takes no account of rising taxes, the cost of living, the cost to clothe and feed a household, the cost of transportation and communication and education, or any of the other line items that add up to a life worth living.
As Helaine Olen points out in The Atlantic:
"Just because a person is insured, it doesn't mean he or she can actually afford their doctor, hospital, pharmaceutical, and other medical bills. The point of insurance is to protect patients' finances from the costs of everything from hospitalizations to prescription drugs, but out-of-pocket spending for people even with employer-provided health insurance has increased by more than 50 percent since 2010."
For too many Americans, achieving any kind of quality of life has become a choice between putting food on the table and paying one's bills or health care coverage.
It's a gamble any way you look at it, and the medical community is not helping.
Healthcare costs are rising, driven by a medical, insurance and pharmaceutical industry that are getting rich off the sick and dying.
Indeed, Americans currently pay $3.4 trillion a year for medical care. We spent more than $10,000 per person on health care in 2016. Those attempting to shop for health insurance coverage right now are understandably experiencing sticker shock with premiums set to rise 34% in 2018. It's estimated that costs may rise as high as $15,000 by 2023.
As Bloomberg reports, "Rising health-care costs are eating up the wage gains won by American workers, who are being asked by their employers to pick up more of the heftier tab… The cost of buying health coverage at work has increased faster than wages and inflation for years, pressuring household budgets."
Appallingly, Americans spend more than any developed country on healthcare and have less to show for it. We don't live as long, we have higher infant mortality rates, we have fewer hospital and physician visits, and the quality of our healthcare is generally worse. We also pay astronomical amounts for prescription drugs, compared to other countries.
Whether or not you're insured through an employer, the healthcare marketplace, a government-subsidized program such as Medicare or Medicaid, or have no health coverage whatsoever, it's still "we the consumers" who have to pay to subsidize the bill whenever anyone gets sick in this country. And that bill is a whopper.
While Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) may have made health insurance more accessible to greater numbers of individuals, it has failed to make healthcare any more affordable.
As journalist Laurie Meisler concludes, "One big reason U.S. health care costs are so high: pharmaceutical spending. The U.S. spends more per capita on prescription medicines and over-the-counter products than any other country."
One investigative journalist spent seven months analyzing hundreds of bills from hospitals, doctors, drug companies, and medical equipment manufacturers. His findings confirmed what we've known all along: health care in America is just another way of making corporations rich at consumer expense.
An examination of an itemized hospital bill (only available upon request) revealed an amazing amount of price gouging. Tylenol, which you can buy for less than $10 for a bottle, was charged to the patient at a rate of $15 per pill, for a total of $345 for a hospital stay. $8 for a plastic bag to hold the patient's personal items and another $8 for a box of Kleenex. $23 for a single alcohol swab. $53 per pair for non-sterile gloves (adding up to $5,141 for the entire hospital stay). $10 for plastic cup in which to take one's medicine. $93 for the use of an overhead light during a surgical procedure. $39 each time you want to hold your newborn baby. And $800 for a sterile water IV bag that costs about a dollar to make.
This is clearly not a problem that can be remedied by partisan politics.
The so-called Affordable Care Act pushed through by the Obama administration is proving to be anything but affordable for anyone over the poverty line. And the Trump administration's "fixes" promise to be no better. Indeed, for too many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck and struggle just to get by, the tax penalty for not having health insurance will actually be cheaper than trying to find affordable coverage that actually pays for care.