Misconceptions About Affordable Health Care

The 2008 election has brought the topic of “affordable health care” and “affordable health insurance” to the forefront and, along with it, a slew of misconceptions. So, what is true and what is false? The purpose of the following article is to dispel some of these myths and misconceptions and provide information to make a muddy topic a bit clearer.

1. The first misconception is that, for some reason, Americans equate affordable health care to be “socialized medicine.”

This is not the case at all. According to Wiktionary, socialized medicine is “an umbrella term for any system of government-run health care.” Many people balk at the idea of socialized medicine because the citizens inevitably pick up the costs through higher taxes. Affordable health care, on the other hand, is as simple as the phrase states – it is health care with costs low enough for everyone to afford. The government does not necessarily oversee it and individuals are free to go to physicians of their choice. It is not discriminatory to those with lower incomes and services are equal whether one is poor or financially privileged.

2. Another misconception is that the current total of uninsured Americans is not as high as many journalists and polls report, and that this is a relevant fact that points to the lack of necessity for affordable health care.

The Kaiser Family Foundation even stated that their numbers include those who have been without insurance for two years or more. The Congressional Budget Office also said that just under half of those lacking health insurance will be without coverage for less than four months, due to being in between jobs. These numbers beg the following question, however: What about those who have something catastrophic occur within those four months that they are without insurance? Without adequate coverage, their medical bills could potentially lead to major hardships.

3. A third misconception is that the only people without health insurance are those who are poor.

This is simply not true. Americans of all income levels are without health insurance. In fact, at least half of all bankruptcies in the United States are due to medical bills. Because individuals are already paying high premiums due to not having affordable health care, when medical bills begin to accumulate, Americans are unable to pay both the premium costs as well as the mounting medical bills. And with the unemployment rate rising, more people are falling into the category of being without health insurance. Whether they are losing the insurance that came with the job they lost, or whether they are unable to continue paying the premiums due to a lack of income, the rate of uninsured Americans is on the rise.

As illustrated above, the need for affordable health care and insurance has become more crucial than ever. The current economic crisis, along with job losses being on the rise, could lead to detrimental effects on the health of Americans. Affordable health care would offer a safety net for both minor and major medical issues.

Home Health Care History

The early nineteenth century witnessed the initial stages of the home health care industry that offered qualified nurses to take care of the poor and sick in their homes. In 1909 when Metropolitan Life Insurance Company started to write policies that comprised of home health care, this industry became very popular. This company is credited for paying the first compensation for home health care industry. This gave rise to the birth of organized home health care.

The Great Depression in 1929 caused several businesses along with home care industry a lot of hindrances and struggle. This went on till the follow-up visits made by nurses after hospital discharge became reimbursable by the Medicare Act of 1966. The home care industry became most feasible and practical when Medicare in an attempt to reduce hospitalization costs set up DRG’s program (Diagnostic Related Group). This laid down that some disease or hospital practice needed a certain stay period. So the discharged patients were more sick compared to their DRG counterparts.

The story does not finish with DRGs. This in fact was the commencement of patient care vs. medical ethics debate. This subject shall be soon addressed in the present health care reform segment. The price of health care is the issue. Questions like how much does a human life cost and how long one should pay for keeping alive a person after he ceases to be a contributor to the society need to be addressed.

Home health care industry needs to answer these questions. The main intention of the DRG programs was to cut down the hospital stay in order to lower hospitalization costs. Thus this becomes a challenge to the agencies. But gradually home care started becoming expensive. The Balanced Budge Act of 1997 hand one major side effect. It limited the benefit days to the patients under home health care thereby lowering the compensations to the various home health care agencies. This resulted in many of these agencies going out of business.

The price to take care of a patient will always stay an issue. There was a growth of nosocomial diseases in hospitals that lead to heavy health care costs. Patients started getting discharged in a much sicker condition than before. This put additional burden on the family of the patient to make available good care once the family member is home. Also majority of the people were working. Home health care agencies that provide services were unable to discharge patients when they exceed their Medicare days if they are in a bad condition or its not safe to depart from them without any nursing services.

In case the home care agency declines admission of a patient who seems sicker than the number of reimbursement days allowed by the government, the patients’ family does not have too many choices. In case of the patient being discharged without any adequate follow-up care, the patients’ family can seek services of a qualified agency that could strain on emergency room visits and re-hospitalization leading to more compensation issues. Such questions are difficult to answer more so in cases where cost is to be taken care of. But, as time passes, such questions will continue to haunt till there are satisfactory answers to them.