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

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' 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.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs