If you’re like many Americans, you have a health-care plan that provides quality medical care, but costs you a small fortune. Every year, your premiums increase far faster than your wages — three times faster in fact — and your health-care costs continue to take a bigger bite out of your paycheck. And at some point in your life, one of your family members has had a serious injury or illness that put a major strain on the family finances but didn’t force you into bankruptcy.
That’s if you’re lucky. Many millions of Americans have no health-care insurance and receive their care at the emergency room. Millions more must make the difficult choice of whether to pay their medical bills or pay their mortgage because they cannot afford to do both. And then there are those whose medical bills became so severe, they are forced into bankruptcy or foreclosure — two thirds of all bankruptcies and half of all foreclosures are a result of a health-care crisis in the family.
Last year, during one of my telephone town halls, a constituent introduced herself as one of my neighbors in Burbank and described an all-too-common situation. One of her children, who had attended school with my daughter, had become ill the year before. Because of a program called “Healthy Families,” her daughter received quality medical care and made a full recovery.
But now the caller herself was sick, and because she and her husband were self-employed and unable to afford insurance, she was at her wit’s end as to where to go for her own medical treatment. She expressed concern about going to the county hospital’s emergency room for her care, and asked: “Is there any hope for people like me?”