The Health Insurance Crisis in America
Health insurance comes as second nature to many of us. We grab that blue and white card and put it in our wallet behind old Irving fill-station receipts and forget about it until we are sick or injured. When this happens, there it is, cushioning our fall like the extra padding it provided to cushion our wallets. This is not the case with everyone, however. Many Americans have no cushion to fall back on, no blue and white card to show the emergency room when they have an unexpected health concern. No HMO with a convenient co-pay amount when their son or daughter develops an ear infection. Medicine and other health services are expensive without these important conveniences that many people lack. These people have been "falling through the cracks" in U.S. health care for years, leaving many citizens wondering: why would our country do this to us? Our great and powerful nation, the United States, a country that much of the world views as the most highly developed nation in the world, is the only industrialized country that does not provide its citizens with universal health care, according to a report by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA 1). Being that we are a capitalist economy, perhaps the government feels it is the duty of the people to make sure they are taken care of. This makes sense, doesn't it? We are all smart individuals; we can make decisions and take action for ourselves. But what can the individuals do when the cost of insurance and health care is too high for them to handle? In the United States, the answer is nothing. A 2002 census published by the Public Information office showed that there are 41.2 million Americans who do not have health insurance (Bergman). That amounts to a startling 14.6 percent of the population, up from 14.2 percent in 2001 (Bergman). This may seem like a small percentage compared to the 240.9 million of insured people living in America right now, but it's a huge percentage compared to other developed countries where 100 percent of the population is automatically covered by the health care system (Bergman). So why don't these people get insurance? Well, as is so often quoted, "money makes the world go round." When it comes to health insurance however, it is not the world, but only America that seems to have a problem with providing health care for a reasonable price to its citizens. 55 percent of uninsured people answered that the reason they are without the safety of insurance is the reason everyone expects--they cannot afford it (NRHA 1). Who are these people without health insurance? "Everyone I know is insured". Of the twelve people randomly quick-polled in a Hartwick College dormitory, only two answered that they knew someone who was uninsured. Granted, they are "rich" college students. Many of them have never been exposed to people who wouldn't have the money to pay for insurance, right? Wrong. The National Rural Health Association reports that "nearly eight in ten uninsured Americans have family incomes above the poverty level" (NRHA 2). It is not just the poverty-stricken population that can't afford insurance. The cost of U.S. health care and insurance is out of reach even for those who do not live in what we technically classify as "poverty". By the 2003 Federal Poverty Guidelines, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, poverty is classified as a collective income of less than $18,400 for a family of four (USDHHS 2). According to the National Coalition on Health Care, the average cost of insurance for a family in the United States is currently approximately $9,500 per year ("Cost"). For a family legally classified as living in poverty, that is more than half of their yearly income. Of course they can't afford it. And many others cannot pay for insurance, either. For families of middle income, health insurance costs use up approximately 15-20 percent of their yearly earnings ("Cost"). Many people have...
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