One of the problems in the U.S. health industry is its unhealthy reliance of direct payments and the private sector to take up the slack in what the government is supposed to provide. Insurance industries dominate the health sector and making profits out of the struggles of families when the federal government should be looking at ways to lessen the chance of families incurring a medical bill debt. A sudden emergency can lead to financial ruin especially if a family’s budget is already stretched to the limit that the head of household could not even buy insurance.
A total overhaul of the industry is needed and the suggestion of the United Nations of a prepayment plan bears reviewing. The United States is already allocating more than 19% of its total budget for health but couldn’t make headway in bringing the health program to the grassroots. The UN, meanwhile, recommends that it should consider a prepayment program to spread the risk and burden across all segments in the population.
Basically, the objective is universal coverage but pooling resources to address medical bill debt will work just as fine by including as many people as possible. Countries with universal coverage are already using various forms of prepayment plans by deducting a certain amount through taxation or itemized as a contribution to the health fund. Under the program, those who have more are expected to give more although the program is fueled by employer and employee contribution.
The government could also look at other means to defang insurance companies and empower the public. Even if it flaunts that families who belong to below poverty level should get subsidized medical assistance, just how many hospitals are willing to extend help? A significant number of hospitals don’t even post announcements at the cashier’s window or billing department informing poor families they have an option to avail of discounts or even have their medical bill debt waived.
It’s time our government’s leaders forget their alliances and work together for an effective medical bill debt assistance program to lift families out of financial squalor. A single family who has to file bankruptcy because of medical bill debt is a tragedy. A million families-and the figure, mind you, is actually more-right in the richest country is the world is downright unthinkable.