Medical debt is one of the nation's largest bankruptcy stimulants. Hospital stays, exotic medications and steep monthly premiums have helped fester a plague of debilitating debt obligations that is said to affect millions of Americans.
Today, on what may eventually be considered an historic day for American government, the United State Congress may have found a cure. Or at the very least, it could be argued that the political chemo drip that has been hanging over the country's head for almost a century has started to have an effect.
On the eve of our country's most recognized reason to come together with families and to celebrate life's little importances, like health and happiness, the United State Senate approved a healthcare reform bill that contains some of the most sweeping changes ever introduced to the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry.
In its current dosage, the bill will broaden medical coverage to 30 million citizens currently deemed uninsured. Once in place, 94 percent of the country will be covered. The bill also introduces provisions that will require industry providers to cease denying coverage to people with existing medical problems.
Other highlights include the requirement for most Americans to have coverage, a subsidy program to assist those unable to pay for an entire plan and a system of state-run insurance exchanges in which people can compare potential insurance products.
Every year, more Americans file bankruptcy because of medical debt. Quite often, even those with good coverage find themselves unable to cope economically with the burden of sickness. The American Journal of Medicine reported earlier this year the number of families in debt because of hospital bills is growing quickly. Specifically, the organization's report cited that 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were rooted in medical obligations. And that was before the recession's tentacles were able to fully strangle the country.
Most of those surveyed in the report were college educated and middle class. Here are some more stats:
- Unaffordable bills were directly attributed to 92 percent of medical bankruptcies
- Loss of income due to illness caused 40 percent
- A quarter of all business that provide health insurance benefits cancel them when an employee experiences a serious illness
- An additional 25 percent cancel medical health benefits within a year of onset of an employee's medical problems
The debate on medical insurance reform is far from over. In fact, it will never end. Today's measure will ignite an entirely new litany of political diatribes, grandstands, agendas and campaign platforms.
The majority of Republicans are remaining firm on their stance that the bill is an intrusion into the private sector and a government power-grab, arguing also that it will increase the budget deficit and slash a patients' right to choose how they are covered.
Additionally, with the President's approval rating far below from where it ballooned just after his election almost a year ago, critics are using the health care bill debate as a pulpit from which to preach about broken promises, expanding government and un-accounted for policy blunders. No doubt the political haggling will slow the bill's ongoing maturity.
In the end, the bill is about providing American's with a reasonable shot at being able to financially afford being sick. Sure, there is not much talk about prevention, maintaining personal health or altering the lifestyle habits that contribute to the economic weight of our medical bills. But at least the problem has finally reached its spot in the limelight. And from here, it looks as if the only direction left to go, is up.