The issue of health care within the United States today is one that centers on the money that can be made rather than the on the individual. Health insurance is available to persons at a high price, and the many tiers of coverage demonstrate the level to which insurance has been commercialized in this country.
Due to these and other reasons, a large portion of the United States’ population is without medical insurance. It has been demonstrated in a 1999 census that “43 million Americans live without health insurance even though 75 percent of them have a full-time job or live in a household with at least one member working full-time” (Mueller, 5).
More recent statistics researched by Tallon and Rowland show that between 2000 and 2006, the number of uninsured seniors has risen by six million. In fact, 18% of all Americans under 65 have no insurance and “Employer-sponsored health insurance, sensitive to both the general economy and changes in health insurance premiums, has decreased markedly from covering 66% of the non-elderly in 2000 to 61% by 2004” (Tallon & Rowland, 1).
As a result of these problems, those persons who can only afford to have a low level of coverage or no coverage at all too often realize that many healthcare institutions are more concerned with money than they are with saving the lives of the individuals they serve.
Healthcare has become a business rather than a national service in the United States. The money collected in the industry is not done so merely as a method of covering the costs of care. It goes considerably beyond that.
In 1998, the revenue for the healthcare industry in the U.S. was notably $1077.1 billion dollars, and a large proportion of political influence is wielded by the HMO’s, for-profit hospitals, and pharmaceutical and insurance companies (LeBow, 170).
These organizations contribute immensely to political campaigns that may or may not promise better health care plans to citizens but that clearly (because of the financial involvement of these organizations) have an incentive not to guarantee these services (170).
Yet, this type of money fixation often extends beyond just insurance companies and hospital administrators. It is also often the case that doctors who treat patients have investment interests in the health organizations to which they refer many of their patients.
It has been found that 10% of U.S. doctors are invested in such businesses (Eckholm, 82). It has also been found that those doctors who are invested in these companies are more likely to advise their patients to utilize the services of the secondary company.
This leads to the patients’ incurring extra medical costs—perhaps unnecessarily (82). As a result of these factors, an international survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund International has shown that Americans have a significantly higher proportion of negative feelings toward their country’s health care system than any other industrial country that was surveyed.
It can be seen, therefore, that American insurance programs often prove to be inadequate, and with the high cost of healthcare, more needs to be done in such a privileged country as the United States. The two basic programs that exist in the United States, Medicare and Medicaid, demonstrate this inadequacy even further. Basic healthcare that includes assistance with hospital stay and other form of healthcare bills is offered through Medicare.
It caters only to persons over 65, however, and offers only a narrow margin of coverage (Raffel & Raffel, 221). Medicaid, on the other hand, has the potential to cover a larger percentage of individuals, but such persons as it provides for are designated as “categorically needy” or “medically needy” (224). The categorically needy include senior citizens and disabled persons.
The medically needy persons are those whose only need for help from the government is with medical expenses. However, the many restrictions placed on the plan make it difficult for a large proportion of the poor to gain access to its benefits. In addition to this, the premiums charged by HMO’s (deemed to be on the lower end of private insurance companies) have increased by about 20% in the past few years.
Some people in the United States are even unable to afford HMO’s and many of these fall also into the categories of those who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. In addition to these persons who are uninsured, another census estimated 42 million Americans live in a condition where they are underinsured (Mueller, 20).
This kind of underinsured condition can be serious, as even in these cases many may be denied the best healthcare possible simply because they cannot afford to pay their entire healthcare bills.
This research has shown that many healthcare organizations are more concerned with monetary gain than they are with the healing of patients. It has also demonstrated the plight of many American people who are either uninsured or underinsured, and who are virtually defenceless in the event of a medical emergency.
Finally, it has shown the harsh reality that many people face when they have to go to their HMO’s for help. Only the very basic level of care is usually provided, and the systems by which HMO’s operate seem to make it nearly impossible to get help in the event of major medical emergencies.
The final analysis is that the overall American system of healthcare seems stacked against the poor and underprivileged in a country where it cannot be denied that enough resources should exist to serve all the citizens.
1. James R.Tallon & Diane Rowland. “The Uninsured: A Primer—Key Facts about Americans without Health Insurance.” Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. (2006): 1-29.
This report offers a comprehensive look at the United States healthcare system and offers insight into the demographics concerning Americans who are uninsured and why this is the case.
2. Physicians for a National Health Program. “Claim that HMO’s Save Money is Little More than Folklore.” (2000).
This is an editorial that challenges the idea that HMO’s save money. It uncovers the areas in which HMO’s have presumably cut services and underreported expenses in order to give the effect of having lowered healthcare prices.