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​Basic healthcare is a right, not a privilege

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Last Word | January 17th, 2018

By John Phillips  hpr@hpr1.com

In 2010 there were over 1.5 million individuals declaring bankruptcy. Although many courts decline to ask reasons for filing bankruptcies, many legal experts believe that over 60% of bankruptcy are the result of the inability to pay for medical bills in the United States. With such a large portion of bankruptcies being the result of exorbitant hospital bills, it begs the question "Why is the American healthcare system one of the most expensive in the world?" The Affordable Care Act is definitely a step in the right direction, especially considering since its implementation in 2010, bankruptcies in the United States dropped significantly from over 1.5 million, to just under 800,000 in 2016.

As it stands, the United States spends over 17% of its gross domestic product on health care alone. The highest of any developed nation in the entire world, yet the United States still creates less than desirable outcomes compared to its counterparts, and covers a considerably less amount of its own citizens. On top of that, the United States not only spends the most on healthcare, but is also ranked 26th in life expectancy. This ranking is one rank higher than Chile (which is technically considered a developing country), and right below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average. Just across the pond, the United Kingdom spends around 9.1% of its gross domestic product on healthcare, has a higher than average expected life expectancy, and covers all of its citizens. Their single payer National Health Service covers all UK citizens through a composition of publicly funded taxes.

The healthcare system in the United States is so fundamentally flawed, that many people can't afford to provide basic coverage for themselves or their family. Before the Affordable Care Act was passed and implemented, there were over 44 million non-elderly Americans who remained uninsured or uninsured in 2013 (before the major provisions went into effect), which is simply unacceptable. While the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction to reducing that number from 44 million to 28 million in 2016, 28 million Americans without adequate health insurance is still unacceptable.

The Affordable Care Act also included a provision for Medicaid expansion throughout the states that would accept it. The proposed Medicaid expansion, if accepted by the states, would be federally fully funded for the first three years, and then phased out over the course of the next 10 years for the states to pay for the coverage itself, which would give many more Americans access to healthcare across the nation. Unfortunately only 31 states opted in to expand the Medicaid program, and the constituents in the states that didn't accept it (which are ones that need it the most) are poised to suffer.

There's no doubt that politics plays a major role in health care reform and legislature. In fact, The Affordable Care Act was originally proposed by a conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, that modeled its platform off of "RomneyCare" in Massachusetts, that included many provisions such as state based exchanges, subsidies for low income families, and mandates, that without, would have otherwise not passed a democratic controlled house and senate at the time.

The fact of the matter is this, with the amount of money the United States puts into its healthcare system, no American should have to worry about being able to afford medical care. No American should have to choose between paying for a prescription and paying for food. No American should be denied basic health care rights based on their age, sex, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, but these are the times we live in, and things have to change.

Senator Bernie Sanders [I-VT] introduced legislation in September of 2017 that would essentially expand the Medicare program to include every U.S. citizen. The Medicare for All Act, would expand the program in such a way that it would eliminate the middleman (insurance companies), and set strict standards for physicians and billing making healthcare affordable for every single person in the United States through a series of tax provisions. Families of four making under $28,000 per year would pay no tax, and would have every healthcare option available to them. Families making more than $50,000 per year would pay a 2.2% tax annually for complete coverage. This includes everything from inpatient, outpatient, emergency services, preventative services, check ups, OBGYN, reproductive care, medical supplies, prescriptions, hearing, vision, and long term care, among other things. The funding for the plan also includes a 6.2% premium paid by employers, and a substantial raise on income and estate taxes on the highest earners. The Medicare for All Act eliminates the need for deductibles, co-pays, and requiring insurance through employers. This also helps businesses that don't have to spend the time, money, and energy that comes with trying to provide insurance to their employees.

The healthcare system in the United States does not have to be this way. Americans should NOT have to worry about how they are going to pay for their healthcare. No one should ever have to make a decision that jeopardizes their health, but unfortunately for millions of Americans this is very much their reality. We as a society should strive for universal healthcare, because as a society it's the right thing to do to care for one another. The Medicare for All Act is the step in the right direction, but until we can remove politics from healthcare, our reality is pretty grim. When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the individual mandate caused an outrage from many folks. A mandate that required you by law to purchase health insurance or face a monetary fine.

So I leave you with this: we are required by law to purchase car insurance to be able to drive, and where is the outrage for that? When did we as a society, care more about our possessions than our own health?

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