Thursday, February 21, 2008

Health Care and Hispanics

Americans like to feel secure. Those living in the U.S. legally as citizens or guests (not illegal aliens) also want to know that their health care is safe to use. People in the U.S. are basically creatures of comfort--living in air conditioned homes with indoor running water and working sewage systems. We like our microwaves, our TVs, our iPods and other techno-gadgets. We love the internet, and we love to eat. For the most part, life in America is good. Unlike Michelle Obama, I can honestly say that I am proud of our country. And I have been that way since childhood and now as part of the AARP demographic.

However, not everyone feels this way. Of course, there are the reported 47 million uninsured that are reported by the Census Bureau. These folks have to figure out how to work the health care system while flying wide open with no safety net. This works until you have a catastrophic medical event, then problems can get ugly in a hurry. Also, as reported in the Dallas Morning News online this month, Hispanic workers feel the most insecure. In 2007, the Rockefeller Foundation surveyed this group and found that about 25% were concerned about losing insurance coverage and about the same number said they did not visit a doctor due to the costs. Many of them take money from savings and pay cash for medical expenditures. As compared to whites at 13%, the numbers tell how much different the cultural aspects of health care in the U.S. are between various ethnicities.

Employers are shifting costs of health care and insurance more and more onto their workers. This puts a huge financial strain on those who are already struggling to make ends meet--choosing between rent, food and utilities and medical needs. According to a report issued by Consumer Reports not long ago, Americans who bought individual health insurance instead of through an employer had less coverage and higher costs. Also, people with relatively decent health can be declined individual insurance due to pre-existing conditions or treatment. The Commonwealth Fund found that about 89% of Americans who considered buying individual health insurance did not primarily due to cost, or the plan did not provide adequate coverage and benefits, or they were turned down for health issues.

This year, the political commercials on TV all espouse universal health care. This topic is huge, and politicos wants to talk about transforming the health care system in America to cover all those without insurance and everyone else. Some want to provide tax breaks, and others want the government to pay all the bills. There are discussions about letting the private insurance companies and the individual healthcare market place to sort it all out. The discussion about health care in the U.S. is reaching a fever pitch, and it won't go away anytime soon. News about people suffering from overpriced insurance and undervalued health care abound, and the media knows it sells. Stories about whites, blacks, and Hispanics dealing with health care problems are all over the internet and the printed page. And both Democrats and Republicans are telling us every day that they can fix it if we will just vote for them. Wow--talk about an easy button!

With all the hype and all the hoopla, Americans need to realize that health care is expensive no matter how you pay for it. Will the private health care industry figure out how to solve the key health problems facing Americans, or will we be forced into a situation where the government ends up telling us what doctor to see and when we can go? Tough questions, and tough times. No wonder people get scared and feel insecure. There is hope, though. And we need to work on finding solutions to the health care problem that are fair and equitable. Insecurity breeds fear, and fear leads to distrust and anxiety. Americans need to feel secure about their country and their health.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

No comments: