How do you define affordable health insurance?

Today, health care costs in America are patently ridiculous for the average wage earner. Unless you are lucky enough to have employer-paid health insurance, you can easily shell out $500 a month to protect you in the case of a life-threatening event such as cancer or a massive heart attack. Should you require an extended hospital stay, you can expect your bill to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care, not to mention ongoing requirements of prescription medication costs which may amount to hundreds of dollars for a single prescription, which you need to refill every month.

Despite government incentives in the form of tax breaks to promote affordable health insurance for small business employees in group plans, few employers have availed themselves of this option. It’s simply too expensive. Small business owners are already strapped and the tax breaks offered don’t measure up.

This leaves citizens in the lurch. If you are forced to pay your own insurance premiums, you may well find yourself in the position of choosing between eating and being insured. Frankly, there is no such thing as affordable health insurance. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a costly medical emergency, you may have to go bankrupt in order to stay alive.

If your income falls at or below the poverty line, you may qualify for affordable health insurance. Most states have Federally funded programs which pay for medical treatment in the case of life threatening conditions. You then are allowed medical treatment on a level that sustains life, but are disallowed certain procedures afforded a person with full coverage. Premiums are determined on a sliding fee scale, depending on household income and the number of persons in your family. Such premiums do fit the description of affordable health insurance, but are lacking in the quality of care you receive.

Recent cuts in health insurance funding have been characterized by a reduction in what are deemed necessary services. For example, in 2006, the Feds required State agencies to cut their health care costs by a certain percentage. States responded by making cuts in a rather arbitrary manner. Dental services were cut to emergency services only. At the same time, the current administration notified the VA to cut dental funding to Vietnam vets, so that Iraq war vets could receive treatment. This directive resulted in Vietnam vets, with crumbling teeth due to the effects of Agent Orange, removing their own teeth with a pair of pliers. They had no other choice. Such a failed health insurance program is a disgrace to our nation.

With a new crop of candidates aspiring to the Presidency, affordable health insurance is a hot issue. This rich nation should address the issue of affordable health insurance with more than lip service. All of our citizens deserve decent health care without regard to income.

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