We all complain about our personal healthcare costs and we know that healthcare spending in the US is a huge percentage of GDP, but what isn’t clear is that the vast majority of spending and healthcare costs come from a small minority of patients. Cancer care, treatment for severe trauma, and therapy for rare diseases can be incredibly costly and unpredictable. For many people who face such substantial challenges, GoFundMe ends up being a huge support, and I think it is worth asking ourselves if that is a reasonable way for people to be able to afford medical care in the United States.
As Dave Chase writes in The Opioid Crisis Wake-Up Call, “In 2013, more than 1.5 million Americans lived in households that experienced a health-related bankruptcy. More than three-quarters of those people had insurance. Some say medical bills may also be the top cause of homelessness. Nearly half of all GoFundMe crowdfunding campaigns are to pay for medical-related expenses.”
Our health insurance, what we pay for and what our employers offer us to help ensure that if necessary, we can afford medical care, does not actually help us afford medical care in the case of an emergency or major diagnosis. Medical related bankruptcies are not a rare occurrence, even for those who have insurance, and if Chase’s quote is accurate that a large cause of homelessness is medical bills, then the cost of care that is supposed to help someone be healthy, likely pushes people into incredibly unhealthy living circumstances. The fact that people have to turn to crowdfunding moonshots for treatment is a clear indication that the healthcare system in America is failing those who need it most.
I would argue that much of the social unrest in our country is related to stagnated wages. Chase argues that wages have stagnated as businesses cope with increasing costs for providing healthcare to employees. Americans don’t see their wages increase, but do see the cost of healthcare rising, and many face bankruptcy and must turn to GoFundMe for healthcare related expenses. It is not hard to imagine how healthcare costs contribute to an unhappy populace that doesn’t trust public officials and elected leaders who have not been able to remedy the situation, or business leaders who have not provided real value in the health benefits they offer employees.