45.7 million people in America do not have health insurance. 16 million people are under-insured and do not have adequate protection. $768 is the amount an average family of four falls short in having to pay for health care premiums each year with an annual minimum wage salary. $8,233 is how much the American government spends on health care for each person every year.
Health care is widely discussed and debated all over the world, but for good reason. I will admit that health care issues were not always at the forefront of my mind. However, when I saw the numbers and realized what could be improved upon, that is when I knew that caring about health care was in everyone’s best interest. One day I will go to the doctor for something – my annual check-up if I am diligent – and realize that something that I had not appreciated entirely before is actually essential. “I do not need any medical work done, so what do I care?” The next thought that I had was, “Should I care?”
Do a simple Google search for any news story related to health care and the word reform is sure to follow. In general, health care reform is just means to change health policy with the hopes to improve the quality of the system in place. Reform is synonymous with change, but it also has the connotation that the change will be for the greater good to make something better or fix a problem. In order to develop a solution, the problem needs to be identified, so let us reexamine the numbers.
The entire populations of Texas and New York combined do not reach 45.7 million people (45.5 million to be exact). Imagine the entire nation has health care except for two of the United States’ largest states. Two states would have to fend for themselves, hoping no citizen got sick or needed to go to a doctor for any reason so as not to come out of pocket for medical treatment. That is the reality. Just because all of the people are not populated in just two areas where they would be more visible, does not mean they are invisible.
16 million is no small number. The country of Chile has approximately 16 million people living in it. Chile certainly has healthcare provided by their government, but could you imagine an entire country that size, with that many people not having adequate health care? 16 million people would have to find the best help with what they could afford, if anything at all. In the United States, that is the reality. There are 16 million people that do not have access to adequate doctors, physicians, or the help they need. By the numbers, the United States has an entire country within it that does not have access to proper health coverage. Just because people have some form of health care insurance does not mean they are insured from high bills, debt or even will receive care at all. Simply because the 16 million people are not clustered in one country does not mean they do not exist.
In a Gallup Pole conducted in November 2012, it was estimated that an average American was expected to spend $800 on holiday gifts. We rarely think about the money we spend once it is gone, unless we could not afford whatever it is we were buying to begin with. The moment you realize you have gone past your monthly budget is when reality starts to set in and you try to figure out how you can recoup. Could you imagine never having any money to buy anything other than the bare essentials of life, and even still not having enough money for that? 3.8 million people in the United States must deal with this every year. This is the reality. Health insurance premiums exceed their yearly income by about $800, when no other spending factors are included. The cost of health care is escalating, which burdens families and businesses. 47% of Americans claimed that they needed, but delayed getting health care because of cost. Many people simply cannot afford the cost, so they remain uninsured. $768 over the course of a year does not sound like a lot, but when you do not have it, sacrifices have to be made. Is health care something that can be sacrificed?
The poverty threshold for America is approximately $11,000 and 15 percent of the country’s incomes fall below that number. Health care consumes about 17 percent of the GDP and yet 15 percent of the nation is barely getting by, let alone being able to attain proper health care. America spends $480 billion in excess in comparison to other OECD countries where everyone is covered, so there is a divide between what works and what does not. Over $8,000 is paid per person in the nation for care, yet everyone still is not covered. People in the U.S. literally cannot afford to get sick, yet other countries are spending less and gaining more. America has the number one healthcare in the world, but at what cost? The cost of $8,000 is not the only bill worth paying attention to, especially when everyone at the table is not being fed, or just spent their entire paycheck on an insufficient meal.
This is the reality of our health care situation. Changing the context may put a different perspective on the issue, but it does not change the severity and complexity of it. Simplicity and transparency in the system are reforms worth mentioning, but information visibility also means there needs to be a visible problem. When we do not think of all the 46 million people gathered in two states, or an entire country the size of Chile, or how much we waste each December on gifts that are just re-gifted to someone else the next year, we often forget about the importance of health care and the reality of the problems. Or is it that we do not care at all?
This article first appeared on The TIBCO Blog and has been lightly edited.