Local view: Health reform will save U.S. money, improve our healthAccording to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there are 46 million uninsured people in the U.S. More than 9 million of them are children. Eight of 10 of them are from working families.
By: Laura Winters, For the News Tribune
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there are 46 million uninsured people in the U.S. More than 9 million of them are children. Eight of 10 of them are from working families.
Why are so many people uninsured? Expensive premiums, copayments, deductibles, and more people losing employer-sponsored health insurance are adding to the toll.
The Kaiser Family Foundation states the average premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have risen by more than 100 percent since 2000. Premiums have grown more than three times faster than wages. Employers are having trouble providing coverage to employees, and buying health insurance on the individual market is nearly impossibly expensive.
According to Kaiser, those without health insurance are less likely to seek preventative care, such as regular check-ups and screenings. And they’re more likely to be hospitalized for preventable conditions, are diagnosed at more advanced states of disease and are more likely to die in the hospital than those who have insurance. When the uninsured get severely ill or injured, they are faced with expensive medical bills, and obtaining health insurance in the future becomes even more difficult.
Medical bills are the number-one reason for bankruptcy.
Even those fortunate enough to have employer-sponsored health insurance are affected by this. Their premiums are higher because of a “hidden insurance tax” of more than $1,000 per family plan to help cover the unpaid costs of the uninsured.
Health reform offers a solution by offering everyone the opportunity for affordable health insurance. More people will be able to receive preventative care and seek medical attention right away rather than waiting until it is too late. The costs of insurance premiums could decrease as companies do not need to cover the unpaid expenses of the uninsured. Able to buy an affordable plan through the individual market, people will not be “stuck” in a job because they fear losing their employer-sponsored health insurance.
Many people opposed to health-care reform say the government cannot afford to provide everyone health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office states that health-care costs have doubled from 1996 to 2006 and are projected to rise to 25 percent of the GDP by 2025. According to a report by the Kaiser Commission, the total uncompensated care provided in 2008 was estimated at $57.4 billion (compared to $40.7 billion in 2004). The primary source of funding is the government, which spent about $42.9 billion (about 75 percent of the total). About 3.3 million more people enrolled in Medicaid as of June 2009 compared to June 2008 because of the recession, and people losing their employer-sponsored health insurance.
With health-care reform, people will be able to buy affordable health insurance, reducing the number of enrollees in Medicaid and reducing government spending.
As a nurse, I am for health-care reform. I frequently see uninsured patients who wait too long to seek care. They have longer hospital stays, require more treatments and have an increased death rate — all of which would be reduced if they had come in earlier.
People need to have health insurance. The government needs to keep insurance companies from raising premiums and denying health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. Without health reform, the country’s deficit would increase even more, and its citizens’ overall health would get worse.
America is the land of opportunity. Why deny people the opportunity to receive affordable health care?
Laura Winters of Duluth is a registered nurse working toward her master’s degree in the nursing education program at the University of North Dakota.