Health care reform is something that will continue to be a center of political debate — and personal struggles — in this country for years to come. While the changes enacted under the Affordable Care Act should be in place by 2014, we all know that politicians can pull off almost anything. A shifting of the political waters in Washington can easily translate to a shifting in our approach to doing something about the fact that in the United States, over the long haul, dying is cheaper than living.
I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. Sixty percent of personal bankruptcies in this country are due to medical debts. The average cost of a funeral is about $6,500. The average annual medical debt of a family with an income of $43,000 is between $4,500 and $5,000. You only die once.
By 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project that spending in the U.S. for health costs will reach $4.6 trillion — one in every five U.S. dollars spent — 19.6 percent of the gross domestic product. Guess what? That’s 0.3 percentage points higher than what was estimated before the reforms were enacted.
And spending brought about by the reform itself to administer the changes, get new programs underway, and then run them? $71.1 billion.
So yes, by 2014 out-of-pocket expenses Americans are facing due to health care bills will go down about 1.1 percent, but from 2015 to 2019 national health care expenditures will increase at a rate of 6.7 percent.
Take it all together and health care in the United States is obscenely expensive. Many of us — myself included — do not like mandated insurance, even when it’s for our own good. Seriously, I resent paying for auto insurance even though I’ve had to use it and have benefited form it. But health insurance may well save your financial life long before medical science has a chance to save your physical one. There is no faster way to fall into crushing debt in this country than to get sick. You can’t afford health insurance, but the truth is, you can’t not afford it.