Healing Our Sicko Health Care System

Source: Jacob S. Hacker, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 357 no. 8, August 23, 2007

It is certainly true that Sicko is not a careful accounting of the pros and cons of the U.S. insurance system. But the basic truth of Moore’s indictment is undeniable. A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that nearly half of adults younger than 65 — most of them insured — say they are “somewhat” or “completely” unprepared to cope with a costly medical emergency in the coming year. A substantial share of the more than 1 million personal bankruptcies in the United States each year — perhaps as many as half — are due in part to medical costs and crises. In no other rich country are people even remotely as likely to report having trouble with paying medical bills or going without care because of the cost. These problems are long-standing — yes, “dating back to the 1980s” — and worsening. And they are largely due to our reliance on employment-based, voluntary private health insurance.

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