Why health insurance should be a priority

Shae Slaughter

As the self-proclaimed greatest country in the world, the U.S. is still falling short on a handful of things that any great country should provide. One of those things is universal health care. Fortunately, in 2010, with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, our government made an effort to make health care accessible to all. The problem is that even with this signed into law, many people still find health care to be unaffordable and unrealistic. That has to change.

There are various reasons for choosing not to purchase health care, including the cost, the inaccessibility or even thinking that you just don’t need it. The first two make sense to me, but I disagree with people who believe they don’t need it at all. Even if you feel as healthy as a horse, tomorrow you could get in a car accident and face ballooning expenses. If you by chance had a lot of money saved up you might be fine, but in reality, medical expenses are the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.

Health care is expensive. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. In Kaiser Health Foundation polls taken since 2015, there is clear evidence of an increase in an inability to afford health insurance. Thirty-one percent of people polled said they had trouble paying copays and prescriptions, let alone premiums and deductibles. Clearly, our health care system isn’t working. 

When the Affordable Care Act was introduced, the number of people without health care dropped. Of course, that was the goal, and it was something great to see, but the bill also had plenty of unintended consequences. While some people received greater access and lower payments, other people (with higher incomes) oftentimes saw their own payments raise. 

There was a reason behind all of these changes, and a lot of it had to do with restricting insurance companies. Since these companies are no longer allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, or drop those who become sick, healthy people are paying more. While this is frustrating to many people, it is also a necessity if we ever hope to have universal health care. After all, you probably wouldn’t want your insurance company to drop you if you got sick, right?

Still, no matter how good the intentions are, the prices are rising. Families across the U.S. are choosing to go without health insurance because it is just too expensive. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that there are families making payments of $1,800 a month for health insurance, and that doesn’t even include the deductible.

Clearly, that is too much money for even a wealthy family to have to pay for some peace of mind. So, now we know what the problem is, but how do we solve it? A first step might be addressing the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies that contribute so highly to this increase in prices. But more than that, the Affordable Care Act needs reform. No, it does not need to be repealed because its foundation is valid, but it does need to address some of the problems that have arisen since its signing. 

The people of the U.S. need health care. Maybe they won’t use it every day, maybe they won’t even use it this year, but they do need it. Every birth, every cold, every accident and every illness depends on it. In this great country in which we live, there should be no reason for people to go without this basic need being met.