Health Care and Economic security

John Cohn on health care and economic security

Lack of health insurance leads to worse health. The precise impact isn’t clear–largely because it’s difficult to separate causality and correlation. But most experts I know would agree it has some impact, likely a substantial one, by making access to medical care more difficult. Still, the health effects of uninsurance–and underinsurance–are secondary to the financial ones. In other words, universal health insurance is primarily an economic security issue. Individually, Americans face severe financial hardship if they end up with medical bills they can’t pay. Collectively, we all bear the price of a system that distorts our labor markets and, more generally, costs more than it should given what we get from it. So if you’re doing a cost-benefit analysis of universal health coverage, a big benefit–indeed, I would argue, the biggest benefit–is vastly improving economic security for low- and middle-income (and even a few upper-income) Americans.

While Jon and Ezra have both written more substantial posts on health care reform, I think this post illustrates an irrefutable fact opponents of universal health care typically dismiss. If your family lacks insurance and you’re forced to go to the emergency room theres a very good chance that you’ll be financially ruined. Marc Cooper complained that he spent ONE day in the hospital and recieved a bill for “$116, 749.00 (not included the cardiologist fees which are billed separately– about another $6k).” However because he had insurance with a specially negotiated rated, the insurer paid only $4,730. The Amount paid by Marc…$0

Can you imagine spending having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills? That equates to almost five years of my moms salary when she was at her economic peak. 5 YEARS! I guess thats the reason why health care related expenses are the number one cause of bankruptcy in America. (2 million a year!)


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