It's no shocker that the average American isn't faring as well this year as he/she was before 2007. Home foreclosures are at a record high, as is unemployment, especially in states like Michigan (the highest in the country) and Rhode Island.
But the most recent reports, which cover 2008 (and reports for 2009 are expected to be similar) show that more than one in eight of us in America are living in poverty, with 14 million children included in those numbers.
What is poverty? According the government, it means that a family of four has a combined income of $22,025; a family of three has an income of $17,163; a family of two has an income of $14,051; and for unrelated individuals the amount is $10,991.
My family and I are by no means wealthy but I cannot imagine a family of 4 living on $22,000 a year. I'm not sure it's actually possible without a heavy reliance on welfare benefits.
And what about health insurance? The estimated number of people in the United States without health insurance has gone from 43 million to 46+ million in the last few years. While some of these people are undocumented, most are citizens or residents who do not quality or receive health insurance from work, and do not qualify for government insurance either.
About 176 million people in America have insurance from their employers. About 87 million people receive government issued health care. For people who believe that government health insurance will turn us all into communists - well over one in four of us are already on it and not a hammer or sickle in sight!
With 300 million people living in the United State - that leaves a huge gap of nearly 47 million of us with no coverage whatsoever.
For those of us covered by our employers - are we really "covered"? Are employer based medical benefits really employer based? The days of our employers offering generous medical benefits are long gone. The broad plans they used to offer, with low employee contribution and little or no deductibles are in the past and don't see much chance of returning. Employee medical benefits that are now narrow, stringent and often carry high deductibles and clauses that prevent people with pre-existing conditions (or even suspected pre-existing conditions) are the "employer paid" plans de jour.
America is still a great place to live, and to this day offer opportunities to people that are greater than most other countries.
But we're sadly lacking in this one area - health insurance.
No-one is advocating that America reverts into some kind of socialist regime. But nobody asks us if we have "fire insurance" when we call emergency services to tell them our homes are on fire. No-one asks us if we have "police insurance" when we call 911 if someone breaks into our home or steals our car, or worse. And nobody asks us if we have "education insurance" when we present our 5 year olds to school on the first day of kindergarten. These are all government (read: tax payer) funded programs.
Yet we present the same 5 year old to the hospital with suspected leukemia or some other potentially lethal condition and suddenly we need insurance. Most parents would rather their kids were turned away from a school than a hospital. Do we want an uneducated kid or a dead one?
Hospitals cannot turn people down in dire emergency, no matter what their insurance status is. But health care is so much more. Do we really need to wait for a "dire emergency"?
Accidents aside, a dire emergency is often the result of a lack of preventative care. And preventative care is the result of having no health insurance. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out where money is being wasted. The cycle won't stop until we figure out how to solve our health care crisis.
And another statistic of note is that most bankruptcies are due to medical illness and lack of insurance - not greed or living it up.
President Obama states that his plan does not do away with private insurance nor will government insurance be free. He states it will be affordable and that people living legally in the United States will have more choices so that no-one will be uninsured.
How do you see Obama's (and America's) health plan? Will it work or does it only seem good on paper? Will it cost us much more than money? Do you have a solution you think would work better? Tell us about it!
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