In the matter of the millions of uninsured people in our country, we are used to hearing numbers. Amazing numbers. Yet, we sometimes forget that within those numbers are our neighbors, friends and people we see every day. In King County alone, there are 210,000 adults without health insurance. That number does not include children.
It is more instructive in matters such as this to think of faces, rather than figures. If you sit and think about it for just a minute, you can probably guess which adults you know who do not have insurance. The person who cuts your hair or makes your latte, perhaps the person who answers the phone at a professional office or a shop, or a young man who coaches the kids’ soccer team.
When we stop and think about how uninsured individuals, both young and old, must cope with medical costs, it is sobering. For everything from shots to an emergency room visit or perhaps an unexpected surgery, the effects of a bill running a couple hundred dollars is more than tough.
A study by the National Institutes of Health looked at hospital charges for emergency room visits by adults for the 10 most common reasons that people visit the emergency room. NIH studied 8,300 visits representing 76.6 million visits.
What they found was median charges ranging from $740 for an upper respiratory infection to $3,437 for a kidney stone. The median charge for all 10 common outpatient conditions is $1,233.
For a person making $15 an hour or less, a $1,000 hospital visit is rent.
While we expect bills to be significant, the variability in such charges from one hospital to another is also a factor. Yet, for an emergency room visit and for most unexpected health care needs, who has the time and resources to shop?
So Obamacare is complex, costly and controversial. Yet for the 500 or so adults on Mercer Island without health insurance, it will be a godsend.