As the 2020 election cycle heats up in the United States, more politicians and voters are thinking about health care costs. Since 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama made healthcare reform a central focus of his campaign, healthcare has been a decisive issue in many elections.
The healthcare sector is gigantic. It includes minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, pharmaceuticals, and lifesaving surgical care. Every year, about 1.09 million laser hair removal procedures are completed each year, 340,000 people undergo cardiac bypass surgery, and 42.2 million injuries requiring emergency room care. In short, healthcare affects everyone, and there’s one aspect of the U.S. healthcare system that everyone can agree on — healthcare costs are rising.
Fortunately, healthcare costs are not rising as quickly or intensely as they were prior to the passage of Obamacare; however, any increase in costs affects millions of Americans. And across the United States, healthcare costs are rising. A recent report from Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in two American adults say that they (or a family member) have delayed or skipped medical treatments due to high costs in the past year. Many Americans struggle to pay their medical costs without going into debt or struggling financially as a result. While certain prices may be expensive due to insurance companies not covering medically unnecessary procedures, many are facing debt and financial hardship due to being underinsured or uninsured. The top five medical diagnoses given in urgent care centers during 2016 were acute upper respiratory infections, acute sinusitis, acute pharyngitis, cough, and fever.
Cost Of Living
Across the nation, health care costs are increasing and creating barriers to care for many families. According to a recent report, as many as 137 million Americans have suffered financial hardships as a result of increasing medical costs. That amounts to roughly 56% of the adult population of the United States who have faced significant financial trouble as a result of medical expenses.
While some Americans write off rising costs as being associated with elective care and expensive medicine, this is not the case, as many medical procedures have not changed significantly in many years, even though the U.S. is the number one consumer of prescription drugs and medical devices in the world. Gibbon developed the cardiopulmonary bypass in 1953, and the technique has not significantly changed enough to warrant steep rises in costs. Instead, many of the costs and financial issues related to medical care come from the large percentage of Americans who remain underinsured or entirely without insurance. Without a stable insurance plan, many Americans are forced to pay for most or all of the bill entirely on their own.
Elective procedures and medical products are often not covered by a majority of insurance plans, leading to increased costs for medicine. For example, it’s estimated that by 2024, the global skin care market will reach $180 billion. Many medical-grade skin care products are helpful for treating painful or embarrassing conditions, but unless they are deemed medically necessary by an insurance provider, patients will be forced to pay out of pocket for them.
It’s not just elective procedures that can cause problems for those who are underinsured. Many insurance companies will not cover certain procedures, even if they will help improve quality of life. Around 12% of people in the United States experience TMJ disorders at any one time, and not everyone suffering from this disorder will have insurance that allows them to seek proper treatment. Even twice-yearly dental checkups must be covered under specific dental insurance.
For some Americans, a lack of reliable health insurance can become a matter of life or death. Consider patients with occupational lung diseases — the number one cause of occupational illness in the nation. In some cases, those in need of emergency care or long-term disease care will still avoid seeking care at a hospital or emergency room to avoid the inevitable financial burden it will place on them and their families. This can sometimes extend to people missing medication or not receiving care, such as in the case of many diabetics who have begun rationing their insulin due to soaring costs.
With costs continuing to climb across the nation, many have been seeking out care in more affordable areas of the country. However, with millions of Americans without proper health insurance and a healthcare system that fails to meet the needs of these patients, it is likely that people across the United States will continue to struggle.
Updated June 11, 2019