America…the Beautiful?

Photo credit: Kendal

Over the past 100 years, the America we’ve come to know is a far cry from what our history books taught us about this country. We learned that America had opportunities for everyone and that along the way there were a few hiccups but we were able to collectively move past them. The hiccups just happened to include the Native American Genocide, racism, slavery, corrupt politicians, and 99% of wealth being held by 1% of the population. You know, some minor hiccups. For a country that has the moniker, America the Beautiful, there isn’t much beauty that can come from hate.

Beauty

Throughout the world, there is beauty in nearly everything we see, hear, touch, smell, and feel. We all have our own way of expressing ourselves which makes us beautiful in our own way. Freedom of expression is a gorgeous thing.

But in a country that promotes freedom, beauty, and expressionism, why is it that only some can benefit from this? What I mean is why can some people receive medical benefits through insurance while others cannot? Why can some people get cosmetic surgery that is covered by insurance when others can’t get insurance to cover their medications? If we want beauty, why is the American medical field so ugly?

Cost

Out of every country in the world, over 290 of them, the United States sits atop the throne of most expensive healthcare providers. The average cost per person in the United States is $11,072. $11,072 per person, for medical expenses! Let that sink in. Switzerland is second with $8,000 followed by Norway, Germany, and Austria. The biggest difference in how these countries manage expenses is that the United States relies on private health care plans while the others subsidize expenses through their government.

Just a few years ago, 2014, the United States still had the highest healthcare costs but at $9,000 per person. For context, a much smaller country, Turkey, has spent roughly $1,200 per person, per year, for the past six years. Why are there such discrepancies between the United States and other countries?

In 2018, the average annual premium for family healthcare rose 5% to roughly $19,616. Regardless of where you stood on the previous administration, you may have thought you were making more money but you were spending more. 2018 also saw deductibles, copays, and coinsurance rise to $13,300 per family. To add fuel to the fire, between 2006 and 2016, out-of-pocket costs WITH employer-sponsored healthcare rose faster than what insurers paid. Think about that. We have been paying way more in insurance costs than we use. That’s worse than paying for a gym membership that you haven’t used in years.

In Order to Live in America, You Need to Be Rich

We know that the cost of goods and services goes up every year. We’ve heard it a million times how a gallon of milk cost $.25 cents when you were younger. We get it. One hospital was exposed for charging more than $50,000 a knee replacement when the procedure only cost around $8,000. This was because the hospital was unsure as to what the actual cost of the procedure was. How is it legal to charge over 5x the amount for a procedure like this? It’s because there is no government regulation.

Many people have stated their disdain for medical professionals and even avoid visiting the doctor for the most rudimentary check-ups because they don’t want to pay any of the fees associated with the visit.

Think of an EpiPen. For some people, an EpiPen is lifesaving, for others, it’s a way to ensure that if they experience an allergic reaction they’ll only receive minor symptoms. In the United States, if you want/need a pen, you’ll pay $669.82 for a two-pack. Comparatively, the same pack of pens costs $69 in Britain. Why? Because a company called Mylan obtained the rights to the patent and decided to hike the prices over 400%. How is it ok to treat people as a commodity when the commodity needs to be alive in order to continue paying?

Welcome to the beautiful country of America. Where healthcare costs are the highest in the world, surgery costs change on a daily basis because hospitals don’t know what to charge, and surviving costs thousands of dollars in addition to your insurance costs. How long would you like to stay?

Cosmetics

We all know Hollywood, California. The place where botox is given out at open houses and the focal point of Entertainment network’s business. California is also known for having the most plastic surgeons in the country (755). Does Hollywood have anything to do with those numbers? There is a very high probability that the answer is yes.

In comparison, the United States as a whole has over 6,900 plastic surgeons, the most in the entire world. Brazil is second with 6,011. While all surgeons do not specialize in lip injections and botox, a large percentage of them do. Why? Because there’s a ton of money involved in it.

Plastic surgery falls into two separate categories- reconstructive and cosmetic.

  • Reconstructive is defined as an individual having abnormal structures such as congenital disabilities, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infections, tumors, or disease-related. The purpose of reconstructive surgery is to improve the individual’s functions and to allow them to perform normal, daily activities.
  • Cosmetic surgery is defined as surgical and non-surgical procedures which enhance or reshape an individual's appearance and confidence.

The issue — the lines are blurred and there is no true differentiator between the two. Depending on the insurance provider and the policy, what is considered cosmetic surgery vs. reconstructive surgery is left in the insurance provider’s hands.

Should an obese person apply to their insurance provider to pay for liposuction? Yes, it will help them better perform their normal, daily activities. Should a man apply to his insurance provider to pay for his gender reassignment surgery? One would make a strong argument for no. That is an enhancement or reshaping of his appearance and confidence.

When the Obama administration implemented the Affordable Care Act, there was no language allowing the discrimination of gender-reassignment surgeries. However, the Trump administration rolled back these regulations allowing health insurance policies to deny procedures or treatments of transition-related care.

So while some people are able to have their gender-reassignment surgery covered by their health insurance provider, people with underlying health issues are forced into bankruptcy in order to survive. On one hand, one person who is not comfortable in their own skin is able to have their procedure covered. On the other hand, one person who has cancer and has experienced hair loss cannot get a wig covered by their insurance because….

What’s Next?

Do not misconstrue insurance not covering gender reassignment surgery as trans lives don’t matter. The issue in America is that insurance and healthcare providers are essentially functioning as the wild west. The government regulations that they abide by are so minute that even enforcing them is a waste of the government’s time.

How can different insurance providers determine what is and isn’t covered when in many cases the situation is between life and death. Why is it ok to raise prices on medication hundreds of dollars because the patent was bought by a private company? There are too many questions to ask as to why healthcare does and is allowed to operate the way they do. There is a lot that needs to change in order to provide a better was of life for American citizens.

America promotes unity, the greater good, beauty, but where is it? How can there be beauty when there is no heart?

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