Health insurance is for many Americans a dream, just out of reach. The number of Americans without health insurance increases by one million people each year, leaving one in six people under 65 without coverage. Without coverage, illnesses go untreated, risking the lives of those who need care. Simple colds can progress into stronger illnesses, presenting the sick person or their caretaker with some tough decisions.
So many people go without health insurance because it is primarily a work-based benefit. Most people who have insurance are only insured because it is either provided without cost by their employer, or at a low enough cost to be affordable to them. However, most of those without insurance are also employed—eight out of every ten uninsured people is a worker or dependent of a worker without any employer-based insurance program—usually in the construction or service industries. As a result of their employment, they cannot be deemed poor by the federal poverty standards, and therefore cannot receive the aid of any federal or state aid program. Basically, it is a vicious cycle.
So many people without health insurance usually put off going to the doctor in hopes that their symptoms will subside and they can avoid a trip to the doctor that they cannot afford. However, in many cases, these symptoms either don’t subside or they increase in strength and nature, and the person who was hoping to avoid the cost of a doctor visit may end up with the cost of a trip to the hospital instead. Because of the lack of insurance, many people whose illnesses, if treated early, could have been curtailed or cured instead must live with the effects of the illness, or in extreme cases, die.
Treatments that are unable to be compensated are usually covered by federal and state subsidies, meaning the amount of extra money needed to provide coverage for the uninsured is small. When calculating a budget for national health care, this money is usually not included in the calculation. By redirecting this money into a federal insurance program instead of just covering what is left unpaid, the nation would be able to provide insurance for all the uninsured with little extra cost.
How can we help? Lobby our state and national representatives. Healthcare is a basic right, not a privilege, and everyone deserves the same treatment. Other nations have implemented a national health plan with success, and with careful planning and reconsideration and redirection of funds, we can solve this problem. The movement for a national health program is gaining momentum again, but we cannot let this issue fall by the wayside. Let your voice be heard.