Letter: Our evolving health care imperative
When I try to imagine over 33 million people filing for unemployment, my mind cannot fathom what that means. But when I put that into a health care context, I get a clearer picture of the dire future facing our country.
I worked previously in a public health care setting where people who could not afford individual health insurance or whose employer did not provide affordable (or any) insurance plans, came to seek either subsidized care or to see if there was a government program that they qualified for. I saw how the search became more hopeful after the Affordable Care Act. Individuals with either no or inadequate insurance, who hadn’t seen a doctor except for emergencies, were able to seek care for chronic conditions as well as temporary concerns such as pregnancy.
Those were the lucky ones. There were a lot of individuals who didn’t qualify for any plans under the ACA but whose employer offered a minimal health insurance option. According to the Commonwealth’s Fund latest Biennial Health Insurance Survey done in 2018, the greatest deterioration of quality and comprehensive care insurance plans was through employer-based health plans.
Now, with so many businesses struggling, I shudder to think what kind of coverage plans will be affordable to either employers or their workers. If a person is fortunate enough to return to work, having had no insurance these past couple of months while unemployed or not being able to get insurance because their employer can’t afford it, the individual — and families — faces the bleak scenario of returning to emergency rooms for their primary care. Given the real fear now of contracting the coronavirus from the hospital setting, not to mention the expense and inefficiency of that care, the ER option is not a good solution.
We need an independent, thoughtful study of the cost of providing a public health insurance option or expanding the ACA to cover more people, versus people trying to find health insurance on their own. As the frequently used phrase says, we are all in this together. Keeping everyone as healthy and productive as possible is the goal.
If we have a united citizenry, think of the bargaining power we would have. If we believe that good health care should be a right for all, we need to figure out how to provide and pay for it. And, if there was ever a time to think of large solutions to huge problems, it is now.
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