Even though the United States does not officially have “socialized” health care, a large proportion of our medical care is funded by the federal government. Even though I know that, I was still surprised by statistics in a recent article, which stated that the federal government accounts for
40% of healthcare spending
$1.3 trillion /year
Covering 100 million individuals
Through 4 federal agencies
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Defense
Department of Homeland Security
(JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), June 21, 2016)
The United States Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 to guarantee basic health insurance to all citizens. People who oppose the ACA ,aka Obama Care, dislike or even fear government involvement in medical care; they consider it interference, control, or even nationalization of the United States healthcare system.
I think many people, even physicians, don’t realize or forget, how involved the government already is in healthcare. As far back as the American Revolution the fledgling government extended health care benefits to the soldiers and veterans of that war; that system evolved into the current military health care system which covers service members and the Veterans’ Administration system for veterans.
Medicaid provides insurance coverage for adults and children who are unemployed or low income.
Medicare covers disabled children and adults and persons 65 years and older.
The numbers are rather staggering.
- Together these programs cover at least 30% of Americans.
- Together they comprise 25% of all federal spending.
- Together they pay 40% of total U.S. health care spending.
An infographic from the Kaiser Family Foundation and JAMA explains this further.
You may not be eligible for either of these programs now, but chances are eventually you or someone close to you will.
- Anyone can become disabled from a serious illness or freak accident.
- You or your spouse may lose your job and your employer sponsored health insurance.
- Your child may have a disability that will prevent them from working when they grow up.
- We may all live long enough to qualify for Medicare on the basis of age alone. Your parents or grandparents are near or already at Medicare age.
It’s important to understand how Medicare works, since it’s not automatic; even if you qualify, you need to sign up to be covered (with a few exceptions). The rules are summarized here. Or consider an easy to understand book here.