News / USA

Poor Americans Struggle With High Health Care Costs

People stand outside a small store in Camden, New Jersey, which has the highest poverty rate in the nation, and has among the nation's highest unemployment, school dropout and homeless rates, February 10, 2011
People stand outside a small store in Camden, New Jersey, which has the highest poverty rate in the nation, and has among the nation's highest unemployment, school dropout and homeless rates, February 10, 2011

Census data released Tuesday show that 46 million people live in poverty in the United States. The 2010 census also shows that a slightly higher figure, almost 50 million people, in the U.S. do not have health coverage.

Related video report by Mil Arcega




Nearly one-sixth of the U.S. population lives in poverty.  Garrett Adams, a medical doctor in the southeastern United States, says financial constraints are preventing people from getting the life-saving health treatments they need.

Adams' voice choked with emotion as he addressed federal lawmakers Tuesday.  For several minutes, he spoke of people he knew personally, saying there is a cycle in which poverty can be a death sentence and illness can be a poverty sentence.  

"Clay Morgan, an automobile mechanic in Henry County, Kentucky, owned his own business.   He got malignant melanoma [a form of cancer], was treated, improved, and thought to be cured, but now was bankrupted.  Cancer returned.  Depressed, and unwilling to bring more medical debt on his family, Clay went into the backyard and took his own life," Adama said.  

Dr. Adams founded a not-for-profit medical clinic in a poor area of Tennessee last year.  He said he was tired of seeing friends in the mountain town being taken advantage of by for-profit hospitals and deprived of affordable health care.  

In 2010, nearly 50 million people in the United States did not have health insurance, a slightly higher number that the previous year.  Most of those uninsured are younger than 65, the age at which the government provides health care.   

Dr. Adams told U.S. lawmakers that health care options for younger Americans and the working poor are limited, and when they do find care, it can be too late.

"Doris, [age] 58, and her husband operated a small, local restaurant before her illness forced them to close the restaurant.  Estimated annual income $13,000.  No insurance.  No medical care.  She heard we offered mammograms.  We diagnosed breast cancer.  Paula, 32, cervical cancer surgery two years ago, but no follow-up because of no insurance and no money," Adams said.

In the United States, most people who have health coverage have such insurance through their employers.

Robert Greenstein is an economist and president of the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"The number of people who are uninsured grew in 2010 due principally to continued erosion in employer-based coverage," said Greenstein.

The unemployment rate in the United States remains above nine percent, as it was last year, and not all employers are required to provide health benefits.  

Elise Gould is the director of health policy research at the Economy Policy Institute in Washington.  She told reporters that young adults aged 18 to 24 are the least likely to be covered by their employers.  

Gould credited recent government initiatives with improving their access to health care.

"Health reform played a key role in stemming the fall of workplace coverage for young adults.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as 'health reform', included provisions that allowed young adults up to age 26 to secure health insurance coverage through their parents' employer-sponsored health insurance policies," Gould said.  

The officials say one-third of people without insurance live in poverty.  According to the 2010 census figures, the official poverty rate was 15.1 percent - up from 14.3 percent in 2009.  

In the United States, a family of four is considered to live in poverty if the household income is below about $22,000.   

Dr. Tim Hulsey told lawmakers Tuesday that poverty has different meanings throughout the world.  A cosmetic surgeon, Hulsey has provided medical care to children with cleft palates in Central America.  He described cardboard houses, polluted water sources and no sanitation, which he said can be a death sentence.  

Hulsey said in the United States, Americans have opportunities to adopt healthy lifestyles and more care options such as free clinics, charity organizations, and doctors who are willing to volunteer their services, as he does.

"In other words, there is little reason other than failure to seek care that poverty should be a death sentence in this country,"  Hulsey said.

Economist Greenstein acknowledged to reporters that just as Americans are dealing with health care issues, U.S. lawmakers are dealing with budget shortfalls.  

"Even before today's grim figures, the United States had higher degrees of poverty and inequality than most other Western industrialized nations.  We need deficit reduction, but it need not make these problems even more severe than they already are," Greenstein said.

While the number of people living in poverty and the number of uninsured are similar, it is not only impoverished people who do not have health insurance.  

One-fifth of America's 50 million uninsured have a household income of more than $75,000 a year.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs