On March 5, 2006, CBS television news magazine, 60 Minutes, featured a report titled, “Hospitals: Is the Price Right?” The piece concentrated on the soaring costs of hospital care, especially for uninsured Americans and the exponentially higher charges they’re billed, which is up to four times greater than the very same services directly charged to medical insurance companies.
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The information was legitimate and quite detailed regarding such expenses, largely based upon information supplied by patient advocate and community activist, K.B. Forbes, famous for his Spanish language radio talk show from Los Angeles, CA and also called former press secretary for Conservative, Pat Buchanan. But 60 Minutes’ coverage of this topic seems even more remarkable, because it had been introduced as being a recent phenomenon.
These emergencies amongst middle class families aren’t news and have been present for ages. It’s a problem, however, which has been worse and worse as U.S. 15% annually since the late 1990’s. Additionally, is the lack of uniformity between insurance companies and kinds of coverage provided, which remains a constant issue. What’s more, the absence of a thorough demonstration by 60 Minutes about the contributing factors for how these families and thousands of others like them are made vulnerable by the current health care systems in place, wasn’t accomplished by CBS, but remains important to comprehend. Without devoting more time and explanation, 60 Minutes did these under-educated on the subject a disservice.
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No employed adult, retiree, or handicapped American is immune from recognizing the effect of spiraling and out of control costs for hospital care, outpatient care and pharmaceutical expenditures. Even if an employer is still picking up the majority of the charges, a growing number of companies are requiring employees to pay higher deductibles and larger co-pays. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research Educational Trust, premiums for employed individuals in 2005 averaged $10,880.00 annually for family coverage or $907.00 per month and $4,024.00 or $335.00 per month for individual coverage.
However, why prices are so high is a composite of many factors. However, many CEO’s and policy makers at the state and national levels continue to stay silent in constructively addressing such. Massive layoffs in both the production and white-collar work forces instead of more economical and benefit-free labor overseas, strong lobbyists in both the pharmaceutical and healthcare businesses having their way with the U.S. Congress, along with the nonstop stream of illegal aliens throughout U.S..
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The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that has based nearly all its health coverage on employer provided plans. The U.S. middle course, as it grew in the postwar 1940’s, was able to rely at the time and before the end of the 20th century, on healthcare costs being absorbed by its companies. It was a means for business to retain good employees while building a commitment to preventative health care, thus ensuring a healthy workforce. However, in what seems a rather short time, the destabilization of health care affordability has seen the most damage manifested within the previous five decades.
Missing from the 60 Minutes demonstration, by way of instance, is the referenced 5,000 hospitals across the U.S. 50 percent of outstanding costs for emergency room medical care. While some illegal aliens are on Medicaid, those that are indigent are eligible for care under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1985. Hospitals are thus obligated to take care of the uninsured with no obligation of compensation from the state or the federal government.
Estimates of free emergency care to illegal aliens is between 25% and 40% of stated indigent care. And while national legislation was signed into law in May of 2005 allowing countries to apply for grants to get some federal settlement, it doesn’t start to approach, by way of instance, the $500 million the state of California alone spent non-reimbursed prices in 2005. It’s only entitled to a maximum of a total $70 million reimbursement. But EMTALA was perceived as a safety net for the indigent and infirm, long prior to the U.S.
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Americans who have fallen on bad times, through no fault of their own. 60 Minutes also failed to expand upon why middle class Americans could find themselves near insolvency. Yes, the piece was about the fact that a working person was asked to pay a $250,000.00 bill for the exact services that would total only $50,000.00 had it been charged through an insurer. But that’s just part of the narrative. There are major corporations laying off employees and giving them the option of severance pay or healthcare benefits, but not both. There are an increasing number of corporations which employ a mixture of independent contractors, temporary hires and outsourced personnel so as to avoid providing healthcare benefits.
There are those laid off people who lose their medical insurance as soon as they are laid off and since they’ve preexisting conditions, defined as anything from a broken arm to diabetes based upon the insurer, can no longer get insurance. There are partners of laid off employees who have insurance but aren’t accepted in their spouses strategy for the identical reason. And there are those people with medical insurance that can have deductibles as high as $2,000 with policy for just 50-80% of the complete bill.
Even without the hospital prices quadrupled, paying off tens of thousands of dollars of a large balance due can be insurmountable, even for a family with an average income of $50,000.00. The little publicized reality is that families declaring bankruptcy as the result of medical debt, at some stage were insured. But it only takes an unexpected illness or catastrophic injury to set those working families, sending them into fiscal crisis. As illness leads to loss of income or disability, thus resulting in loss of policy, the invoices can spiral out of control from there. And in case of a job loss, at non-profit hospitals that do provide”charity care,” it is seldom offered to patients with resources like a home.
The hospitals only turn over the bills to collection agencies that can and do place liens on patients’ property. Yes, we’ve been hearing since Bill Clinton ran for president the first time around that 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance. But given the quickening of the international market, an average of 3 million illegal aliens crossing the border annually, and medical care costs escalating by double digits annually, followed by less and less accommodating insurance programs, it would be tough to think that that amount has remained stagnant since 1992. It indicates that 45 million is the complete with no tally of illegal aliens getting free medical care.
That way, it doesn’t expect an acknowledgement from the federal government that the illegal population is a contributing element to the problem. While the national government welcomes a global market, lawmakers still don’t welcome the chore of handling a fractured healthcare system that in the not too distant future threatens to supply just for the poorest and those in the top income brackets. But preventative health may soon become a thing of the past for the middle class, forcing many between the middle class and working class to fall through the cracks.
The lesson here is that there has to be an honest discussion not just about health care costs, but accessibility to health care for people who are willing to keep their health. For without it, there’ll be no tax base to maintain America’s hospitals and health care providers afloat. And in order to have an honest discussion both the government and media must admit how subsidies are being invested and finally acknowledge there are too many deserving Americans that are being left behind.