Decisions, decisions, decisions

Some of us may take it for granted that we have health insurance. Having a consistent peace of mind that comes with knowing no matter how sick we are we have some form of coverage that assures that not all the cost of our treatment will fall solely and squarely on our financial shoulders is priceless; however, there are many out there who do not have such a luxury.

There are many out there who go without health insurance and suffer for it.

Consider that the number of uninsured Americans “reached an all-time high in 2010, as nearly 50 million Americans went without health insurance for the entire year. For many of these uninsured people, the consequences of going without coverage are dire. The uninsured frequently face medical debt or go without necessary care, and too many of them die prematurely.”

As we will see in the story below, oftentimes patients have to make very difficult decisions about their health. When patients do not have health insurance, these decisions are often around choosing between seeking care and figuring out how to pay for it later, or not seeking care at all.

In a seminal report written by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), insurance was determined to be important in determining what people choose to do with regard to their health. The report concluded that working-age Americans without health insurance are more likely to:
• Receive too little medical care and receive it too late;
• Be sicker and die sooner; and,
• Receive poorer care when they are in the hospital even for acute situations like a motor vehicle crash.

Add to these findings that we are seeing more and more people go uninsured due to to the rising cost of health insurance and the decline of the economy.

As seen in the graph above, a substantial number of people who make less than $60,00 per year are going uninsured.

The health insurance problem is not going away despite such efforts as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Back to our story, the final in our partnership with the Health and Justice project.

After over twenty years of marriage, veteran Alan Petrosky and his wife Kim are offered a chance to get the healthcare coverage they desperately need, but there’s one catch. (4 min 24 sec, Music Credit: “Kontemplatief Advent Track 02″ (bensonofone) / CC BY-NC 3.0 )

As you can see from the Petrosky’s story, this “catch” is that they had to decide whether or not to stay married so that they could receive health insurance.

No one should be forced to make such decisions just to receive health insurance.

No one should be forced to decide whether or not to pay for college or for the healthcare they so desperately need.

No one should be forced to decide whether or not to pay for food, rent, or utilities or their children’s health bills.

It is no longer a question as to the importance of accessible and affordable health insurance in this country. From the IOM:

“The quality and length of life are distinctly different for insured and uninsured populations. Even the most acutely ill or seriously injured adults, when uninsured, cannot always obtain needed care. Having health insurance will not just increase access in times of crisis but will also facilitate use of essential health screening services and chronic disease care.”

What remains in question is how we can create a healthcare system that allows for more affordable coverage so that our health decisions are based on what is best for our health not based on what we can afford.

In the current political climate, it is important to listen closely to our candidates understanding of the health insurance issue and what their plans are to help create the healthcare system we all deserve.

Dr. Miller has his doctorate in clinical psychology and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine where he is the Director of the Office of Integrated Healthcare Research and Policy. His core task is to integrate mental health across all three of the department’s core mission areas: clinical, education, and research. Opinions expressed here are his own and not those of his employer.

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Posted in healthcare, insurance
  • Jeremy Helton

    Thanks for sharing the Petrosky’s story, Ben. They have both really been through the ringer so it is nice that their story is being told.