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That’s $55,029 before insurance, and $11,120 is what he still owed after Aetna covered its share. His other option was to not get his appendectomy, which would probably eventually kill him. Here is how those costs break down.
The richest nation in the world is forcing people to make choices like this. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) helps quite a lot by getting millions of more people insured, making it so preexisting conditions don’t screw you out of the system, and require that insurance companies spend 80% of their revenue on providing care.
As soon as possible, we need to take the next step: single-payer healthcare. Essentially the government pays for healthcare costs, using our tax dollars. That’s how (the extremely popular) Medicare works. You would think that having everyone pay into a common pool which is then used to keep everyone alive and healthy would be an obvious feature of a social contract. The reason it isn’t is that insurance companies, which are edged out of existence in a single-payer system, contribute lots of money to political campaigns, and politicians don’t want that flow to stop.
We will get there eventually, once people realize that the tradeoff made by Canada and European countries of a little extra in taxes in exchange for universal healthcare is a deal well worth making.