The Mix

Growing health care crisis

There were 800,000 more Americans without health insurance last year than there were in 2003.
My boyfriend and I were visiting my family in Latvia this summer where he got sick right away with a hardy European flu his American immune system couldn't handle. We didn't have health insurance, but as symptoms got worse I dared to call the doctor. To my surprise, the cost of a visit at home was $30. The cost of Lithuanian antibiotics that cured him? $3. Similar antibiotics at Walgreens? $50.

It makes sense then why the average American paid $5,267 on health care in 2002, compared with an average $1,821 in other industrialized nations. And it's not because our medical lawsuits are out of hand, as many Republicans like to argue. As AlterNet reported, recent research shows that health care increases come from high prices not costs. In other words, pharmaceutical companies charge more for the same drugs and health care companies charge more for the same services.

These rising prices contributed to the fact that even more Americans went without health insurance last year. And it means that more folks lack routine preventative care, resulting in expensive hospital visits for more serious problems.

According to a recent data by the Census Bureau released on August 30, there are 800,000 more Americans without health insurance this year than there were in 2003. Lack of insurance was much more common among those with low incomes.  Some 24.3 percent of people with incomes below $25,000 were uninsured, almost triple the rate of 8.4 percent for people with incomes over $75,000. And more depressing findings -- African-Americans (19.7 percent uninsured) and Hispanics (32.7 percent) were much more likely to be uninsured than white, non-Hispanic people (11.3 percent).

Luckily, the number of uninsured children didn't grow. The government health insurance programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP enrolled more children in 2004 and offset the reduction of private insurance plans for children.

There is no simple solution to this problem, but I am planning to channel some of my rage into next congressional elections coming up in November 2006. And I asked my dad to mail me some Lithuanian antibiotics.
Kristina Rizga edits WireTap—AlterNet’s youth-oriented section.
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