Local view: Start the conversation now on universal medical coverageIt has been said education is the great equalizer. I would argue access to health care should be part of the equalizer equation.
By: Louise Curnow, Duluth News Tribune
It has been said education is the great equalizer. I would argue access to health care should be part of the equalizer equation.
Currently, 50 million people in the United States are without health insurance, 81 percent of whom are native or naturalized U.S. citizens. That’s 50 million who either go without or delay the health care they need. Those delays come at a high cost to health and economic outcomes. People uninsured over the long term experience poorer health and earlier death than those with insurance.
Such problems are associated with societal costs ranging from $65 billion to $130 billion per year, according to estimates published in 2003 by the National Academics Press of Washington, D.C.
A 2010 report from the Kaiser Foundation stated the barriers the uninsured face in getting the care they need means they are less likely to receive preventive care, are more likely to be hospitalized for conditions that could have been prevented, and are more likely than those with insurance to die in the hospital.
The financial impact can be severe. According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2009, illness and medical bills were linked to at least 62.1 percent of all personal bankruptcies in 2007. Most medically bankrupt families were middle class before they suffered financial setbacks; 60.3 percent of them attended college and 66.4 percent owned a home; 20 percent of the families included a military veteran or active-duty soldier. Nearly 80 percent of the individuals whose illness led to bankruptcy had health insurance at the onset of the bankrupting illness.
The average annual cost for family coverage in an employer-sponsored, health-care plan is $13,770, a benefit fewer and fewer employers can afford to offer. As employee premiums continue to increase, fewer eligible employees can afford to enroll. Part-time workers often aren’t eligible to enroll. As a result, more than
75 percent of our nation’s uninsured are in working families.
Regardless of a person’s insurance coverage, those injured or newly diagnosed with a chronic condition receive similar follow-up care; however, the uninsured are less likely than the insured to actually obtain all the services recommended, according to a 2007 report.
Effective in January 2010 all physician clinics in Minnesota were required to submit data to measure health-care quality. Minnesota law now requires the commissioner of health to establish a standardized set of quality measures for health-care providers. The end goal is improved patient care and Minnesotans living healthier lives.
This, of course, is an admirable goal. But how do we measure quality in health care when we don’t have equality in health care?
The reality is many of us are a slip on the ice away from a medical catastrophe. We need universal medical coverage: equal care, standard of care, medical coverage for all. Let’s start the conversation.
Louise Curnow is a physician assistant at the Lake Superior Community Health Center in Duluth.