According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the national poverty rate for the continental US (for 2014
) is $11,670/year. That's for one person, living by themselves. For every extra person in the household, you add $4,060. For example, a household of 4 would have to make no more than $23,580/yr ($11,670 + (4,060 * 4)) or less to be considered in the "poverty threshold". This equation is one of a few prime qualifiers to determine what social safety nets people/families can qualify for.
For example, to qualify for Medicaid under Obamacare, the national guideline now stipulates that you can make no more than 133% of the poverty threshold to receive Medicaid. But, since qualifications used to be even stricter, the Supreme Court recently ruled that individual states can still stick with previous rules to qualify, being a combination of "poverty threshold", a family's collective assets, and disabilities, to name a few. Basically, states can still not approve you for Medicaid, even if you make the poverty threshold requirement of the ACA.
And then there's CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program. CHIP was created to give even more access to health insurance to families with kids that weren't able to qualify for Medicaid, but still brought home modest annual incomes. (And the term modest of course is according to federal institutions). Let's be honest, poverty in this country equates to earning a maximum of just under $12 grand a year, or roughly $1000 a month. That's extremely hard to live off of, let alone be able to afford any kind of quality health insurance. Even when adding $4,000/yr or so for each additional person per household, its exceedingly hard to make the numbers work. Multipliers of 133% or even 200% (which is closer to the multiplier to qualify for CHIP), those annual gross income numbers are still just simply not enough for most folks to live off of with much comfort at all.
I hear a lot of people from both sides of the aisle talk about budget cuts and "reigning in spending" and so on and so forth. Then I read articles like Most Americans Have No Clue How Their Tax Dollars Are Spent (And Don't Care)
or Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us
. With the former, the article outlines a breakdown of where our tax dollars actually go, by percentage. It's our collective bill, as citizens. The biggest chunk of everyone's tax dollars go to National Defense, at 25%. Then Healthcare at 22.5%. Job and Family Security comes in third at 17.25%. Just knowing that National Defense is a higher priority than healthcare in this country screams to me a miscalculation of priorities; we need to help ourselves properly BEFORE we police the world so haphazardly.
Then there's the Bitter Pill article. The author Steven Brill goes into pain-stacking detail as to exactly how and why medical care costs so damn much in this country. Spoiler alert, it pretty much comes down to price gauging at almost every level. This can happen because there is little to no oversight on pricing; insurance companies and medical institutions are free to set arbitrary prices at will, and people don't realize (for the most part) because their policies cover a good percentage chunk either way. But that price gauging still completely warps the entire system, and makes everything impossibly expensive without insurance. Therefore, if millions aren't covered, and medical bills are sky high, someone, somewhen will eventually have to pick up the slack. That's one of the main reasons the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was instituted in the first place.
I bring up those two articles to illustrate a point: we do have a way to make healthcare affordable in this country. It's not just as simple as "it costs too much and therefore we shouldn't do it". No. It's another kind of simple: we need to reorganize our national spending priorities and take away power/ more strictly regulate the out of control medical industries' arbitrary price tags. CHIP and Medicaid are great social health insurance programs that have helped millions of Americans. And under Obamacare, the restrictions for qualifying for such programs are easier, which is a good thing.
Even still, millions fall through the cracks, and are left currently uninsured. Yes, everyone now has the ability to get insurance through the ACA. However, that's why I brought up the poverty threshold to begin with; even with Obamacare access, insurance is still very expensive. A lot of families floating around that poverty threshold income level still simply can't afford to pay hundreds a month for coverage. My thinking is that they shouldn't have to. We all pay taxes. And, as outlined above, if we were to reallocate even a small fraction of the national defense budget to quell health insurance costs, along with finding a way to regulate the out of control price gauging, our country's health insurance crisis would be awesomely reigned in.