The Affordable Care Act

The name says it all. Health care is rapidly becoming unaffordable and there is a big need for the Affordable Care Act.  Before passage, medical costs had been climbing by double digits every year. It didn’t take long for some to get out of control. At 10% medical inflation yearly, a $50 doctor visit in 2000 was up to $118 by 2010 and headed for over $300 by 2020. And that isn’t all. Along with the higher office visit, changes in the way services are sold mean that a $118 office bill is often coupled with additional charges for specialists, labs, and prescriptions.

So what used to be a $50 visit to the doctor, by 2010 may have cost $118 coupled with another $100 or so for a blood lab. Then it’s a trip to the pharmacist for an $80 prescription. And this is for a simple illness.

The scary part is what happens when you get really sick. The latest figures show that men have a 1 in 2 chance of developing Cancer during their lifetime. Women 1 in 3. The average annual cost of treatment for breast cancer is $128,556. Prostate cancer is $42,570. Colon cancer is $51,812. These are just first-year costs from the National Cancer Institute. Even more will experience a heart attack than cancer. The average first-year cost of treating a heart attack is $38,501.  A simple broken leg is over $10,000. Xrays alone can approach $2000.

It’s nice having insurance to cover your $118 doctor’s visit for a cold, but insurance is really designed for these big expense situations.

The Other Side of the Need for Affordable Care

On the flip side of these high expenses and need are the facts that:

  • Insurance is expensive and many cannot afford the premiums.
  • Still others just don’t want to pay the premiums.
  • No-one like to think about getting sick
  • And our health care system already had some features and mechanisms for picking up the bill for those who cannot pay.

Let’s address this last point first.  Just because we had a system of covering some care for the uninsured, it doesn’t mean that the care was free.  Everyone paid for it!  Uninsured or unpaid coverage is built into our tax structure and adds a surcharge to all of us that pay our bills.  In my home state of Connecticut, it was 11%.  That meant that everyone who had insurance or could pay their bill, actually paid 11% more to cover those who can’t pay.  That’s in addition to a series of state and federal tax subsidies that come out of income or sales taxes.  That’s not right.

Part of the problem is that some people don’t want to think about needing medical care and don’t want to pay for care or insurance…. until they need it.  Maybe they’re still living in the 1800s when the town barber doubled as the doctor.  Whatever the reason, some have considerable reluctance to buying insurance, and they’re not too happy with the tax penalties for these who aren’t covered.