Whose responsibility is it to pay our exorbitant medical bills?
I don't know enough about the Affordable Care Act to swear by it. I'm not sure if it is without a doubt the best possible plan that anyone could have come up with. I'm sure there are lots of flaws (although they weren't put there purposely by President Obama). Despite its imperfections, though, I believe that it's better than nothing. We had to do something. From my own personal experience, the health insurance world is a nightmare to navigate. I have had multiple bills in the hundreds of dollars that weren't covered for some obscure reason, or because my employer didn't offer health insurance and therefore I was paying out of pocket. And my bills were just for routine medical or dental checkups. I have been very fortunate not to have any debilitating illnesses or major accidents. If I had, I know that I would be in enormous debt right now, either to credit card companies or to my family. Neither of which is a desirable option.
But it's accounts like this one that really get me upset about the health care system. In this moving article, a college professor ends up tens of thousands of dollars in debt because her partner comes down with advanced-stage Lyme disease. Her health insurance hasn't kicked in yet, so they have to pay out of pocket for several weeks, and no one is able to diagnose her properly. The partner is in extreme pain and misery, and all she can do is watch helplessly. Eventually, thousands of dollars later, they get an accurate diagnosis, and it turns out to be a diagnosis that isn't covered by health insurance! They end up having to start a website to plead for help from their friends and family. Fortunately, they raise a lot of money, and are able to pay their bills.
But it's just ridiculous that people need to go to such lengths as designing a website to beg for help to pay simple medical bills. Imagine if they had been a family with less know-how, who didn't have such a network of support that helped them navigate web design and mounting bills. Imagine being an English language learner, who is trying to understand stacks of paperwork that involve "deductibles," "claims," and other confusing requirements. Imagine being a single mother who can't pay her child's medical bills because her employer either can't or won't insure her. There are endless scenarios where people's lives are ruined, temporarily or permanently, because of our unsupportive, confusing health care system.
While I don't think the Affordable Health Care Act is perfect, I do think it's a good start. We had to start somewhere, so stories like this don't go on. As this article said, "It is not our community's responsibility to pay our exorbitant medical bills, to prevent our lives from being annihilated by the cost of illness. It is our government's responsibility."
Image source: NYTimes