Healthcare in America has changed since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in March 2010. Most Americans still receive health insurance through their employer, but there are now healthcare exchanges that allow freelancers, contractors and others who don’t receive insurance through work to sign up for it anyway.
However, the Trump Administration has worked hard to roll back parts of the ACA, which means that in the near future, access to health insurance could depend in large part on where you live. Blue states like California seem inclined to fight for the ACA, while red states like Texas seem happy to watch it be weakened.
A patchwork approach like that is probably not sustainable in the long-term, especially since a poll last fall found that a slim majority of Americans support a single-payer healthcare system. So what might the future of healthcare and health insurance look like?
First, the good news: America remains a hotbed of medical and scientific advancement. We have some of the best minds in the world working on curing diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and HIV/AIDS. In general, America has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world, thanks to a combination of factors including technology, frequent screening, and aggressive treatment. Aggressive treatment, of course, can be a double-edged sword at times.
But people who are diagnosed with cancer should feel encouraged by their access to some of the best cancer treatment centers in the first world. Cancer is still scary, of course, and there’s no way to make it not be scary, but residents of every state can find quality care, even if some have to travel farther to get it. New Jersey state-of-the-art treatments and cancer care services can be obtained whether you live in Newark or Vineland, just like Texas state-of-the-art treatments are available to residents from from Houston to El Paso.
Paying for it
How do we pay for those fancy treatments, though? Unfortunately, having access to high-quality care doesn’t guarantee that the patient will be able to pay for it without going into significant amounts of debt. Health insurance is designed to relieve the burden, but in most cases it’s not going to completely remove the burden.
Patients can still be left with thousands of dollars in medical bills that insurance refuses to cover. Crowdfunding can be an incredible gift to people whose campaigns are fully funded, but it can feel like a cruel joke to people who need thousands of dollars and only get $100.
The burden bestowed on Americans who suffer catastrophic injuries or illnesses is one reason why some people decide personal injury lawsuits are their best chance at being made financially whole again. These suits only work when plaintiffs and their lawyers can show that some other person or party’s negligence or recklessness led to an injury or illness, though.
So someone who was poisoned by asbestos at work will have a better case than someone who develops breast cancer for no apparent reason. A person who was hit by a car while crossing the street might have a case against the driver of the car, but a person who fell asleep behind the wheel and ran into a light pole is likely on their own.
Medical bankruptcies have declined in the last few years, but there’s still a lot of work to do before we get that number to zero. When change arrives, it will probably have to come via lawmakers. The current system is highly profitable for a few people and companies, but the focus on profits can leave consumers out in the cold.