Almost everyone agrees that physical well being should be a top priority no matter what. That isn’t surprising. The controversy often begins only when financing medical intervention is necessary. Most of us are already at a major disadvantage because America has an exceedingly pricey healthcare system. Sarah Kliff and Soo Oh at Vox publicized as much last year. They visualized several cost comparisons between the US and other developed nations. The data is sobering. With the exception of colonoscopies and CT scans, Americans paid more, on average, for standard procedures than did any of their counterparts elsewhere.
The authoring duo clearly emphasized how our domestic policies are in large part to blame. “Most other countries have some central body that negotiates prices with hospitals and drug manufacturers,” they explained. “The US doesn’t have that type of agency.” We instead rely on fragmented insurance companies to negotiate prices independently with hospitals, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry. It should stand to reason that those players and institutions are working in our best interests yet the evidence suggests otherwise.
Journalists aren’t the only ones revealing a dire need for policy reform. Institutions world renowned for breakthrough research have gotten involved, too. For instance, Karen Feldscher at The Harvard Gazette promoted a joint study conducted by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Economics. According to the researchers, “the study confirmed that the US has substantially higher spending, worse population health outcomes, and worse access to care than other wealthy countries.” They identified the main culprits as excessive administrative costs, absurd average salaries, and the per capita spending on pharmaceutical drugs.
Don’t forget that the GOP remains hellbent on dismantling as much of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as possible. It’s hard to fathom how or why any politician could justify an initiative that denies people access to affordable healthcare while simultaneously letting insurers apply questionable discretion over coverage. Some states are fortunately fighting back while their counterparts elsewhere play right along. That means adequate healthcare coverage is now often dependent on where we live.
Nisarg Patel at Slate openly despaired over that exact phenomenon last summer. “As blue states are building their own path towards universal coverage,” wrote Nisarg. “Red states have remained on course with the Trump administration, imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients and deregulated insurance markets.” Countless Americans have, as a result, now found themselves dangerously underinsured or tragically uninsured. Either way, there is still almost no escaping the medical industrial complex. Successfully navigating the healthcare system is itself a cumbersome undertaking despite the urgency required for numerous medical conditions and/or disorders.
The elderly are regularly the victim of our complicated healthcare system. Many sometimes struggle with cognitive functions essential to the due diligence and decision-making process. Add into the mix the fact that things like Medicare Annual Enrollment and Medicaid reimbursements are frequently time-sensitive. Access to reliable public resources has certainly never been better, but utilizing them inherently presupposes sufficient health literacy and cognitive function–neither of which is guaranteed.
The above dilemma hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially when it comes to the first factor. Scholars at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Center on Society and Health declared education necessary for improving healthcare outcomes. According to them, “healthcare has a bigger impact for people with limited education than for those with more education.” Most of us focus exclusively on medical interventions when the data indicates that they only account for about 20% of outcomes. Contrast that with higher education, which has a disproportionate influence on long-term health outcomes plus a wide array of other benefits.
Suffice it to say that preserving our health and well being isn’t as easy as it ought to be. Overcoming obstacles is the reality for many Americans regardless of lifestyle. Defying the status quo is the only way to ensure the future is different.
The passing of the American Health Care Act (better known as the abbreviated AHCA or Trumpcare) was a landmark moment in Donald Trump’s youthful presidency. It had initially appeared that the grand operational to rid America of “Obamacare” had floundered, and would be pushed to the back of the legislative agenda for the foreseeable future.
Then, it rose from the ashes, a phoenix of a bill that seemed to settle the concerns that had lead to the original vote being cancelled. It passed with a slender majority, and now goes to the Senate to be considered, before becoming law. In fairness, it is suspected the bill won’t pass the Senate without significant changes, but it still leaves the realistic possibility that Democrats feared: millions could lose healthcare coverage.
In fact, it might be even worse than that. Thanks to the removal of the necessity of coverage for pre-existing conditions (which include, by the AHCA’s definition, pregnancy or even acne – the list is long), there’s a chance that huge amounts of people will be left with ‘junk’ insurance. That is insurance that exists, but which they – thanks to the huge range of pre-existing conditions – can never realistically claim on.
It’s a rough situation, and one that merits a lot of scrutiny in future. There’s a way to go before it becomes law. However, the passage through Congress of the bill has meant that thousands of people are now wondering what happens next – especially those who rely on Obamacare or Medicaid for their healthcare coverage entirely.
Should People Worry?
It would be ideal if the dismissal of this fear was simple, but alas, it’s not. There’s good reason for those who have relied on these government coverage levels to feel concerned. The new AHCA is going to change almost everything, and could cut thousands off from potentially life-saving treatment. While the Senate will likely make changes, it’s not going to wholesale switch the bill back to what Americans recognize as their healthcare today.
The key point to remember if you are concerned about these changes is that you have got time. While the AHCA was passed quickly in its rewritten form, it nevertheless will take some time before it’s signed into law.
So, now is the time to start preparing for what happens if you lose your coverage and can’t afford to replace it.
How Did Americans Cope Before The Affordable Care Act?
Better known as “Obamacare”, the Affordable Care Act brought in changes to how Americans paid for their healthcare coverage. It gave insurance to millions who had otherwise been unable to afford it, or had been unable to obtain coverage due to pre-existing conditions. It was the biggest shake up of American healthcare since the war.
Before it came into law, the answer to the above question is… they didn’t. Medical expenses were the primary reason for personal bankruptcy in the USA for years. The bills for medical expenses were so high that some just couldn’t afford any kind of healthcare at all, instead resorting to cheap, at-home remedies to try and manage conditions. It was a bad situation, which is why Barack Obama felt it had to change.
How Can People Manage Without Insufficient Healthcare?
So what some Americans now face is a return to the days of lack of coverage. While those on the lowest incomes will still have some level of coverage, it’s those on lower or middle incomes that will miss out.
One thing to keep in mind if you find yourself stuck for coverage is that medical expenses are not something you can ignore. If you receive a bill from a hospital, treat it like a priority, an essential that you have to get cleared – even if that means going without in other areas of life. This can be difficult if you’re suffering an ongoing condition, but it still has to be done. Losing track of what you owe and not scrutinizing your bill can see additional charges and interest added, making a bad situation all the worse.
If you can’t afford coverage and do need medical intervention, then get ahead of it. It’s quick and easy to search for personal loans online, which you can use to clear the hospital bill. It’s still a debt, but it’s a controlled one that isn’t going to put your house on the line.
As you have warning before these changes come into law, now would be a good time to start a savings account. Separate this from your general, everyday banking and contribute to it wherever possible. Use the money in this account for medical expenses only. This is a method known as “self-insurance”, and it might be the best option if you know you’re not going to be able to afford the full monthly premium for full coverage. If you start building up your savings now, then you have a cushion to fall back on if the AHCA changes do impact you.
How Do You Cope With The Uncertainty?
The last question is more emotional than practical, but still well worth considering. One of the major issues in this debate at this point in time is the uncertainty: will it pass the Senate? What will the AHCA look like when the Senate have made their changes? Will I – or anyone I care about – be impacted by the changes?
A good rule of thumb is simply to try and prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Figure out how you would borrow money to pay any bills; have a savings stack to fall back on should you become unwell. Bear in mind that, for some people, the AHCA will save them money on their coverage – so it might not all be bad news. Keep an eye on the news and hope the Senate does you a few favors. It’s not ideal, but that’s how lawmaking goes: it takes time.