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Too Many Poor Excuses

Too Many Poor Excuses

By Kim Bellard, May 23, 2018


I am so tired of reading yet another story about how we — Americans — cannot afford things. Not luxury item. Increasingly, it seems like too many of us can’t afford what most people would consider basics — food, housing, child care, transportation.


And health care, of course.


new study by the United Way ALICE Project found that 51 million households can’t afford a basic monthly budget that includes food, housing, health care, child care, and a cell phone. That is 43% of all U.S. households.


ALICE stands for Assets Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. Of the 51 million households, two-thirds are ALICE ones. These are working households that, in a prior era, might have been thought of as middle class.


Now they are living paycheck to paycheck, and fearing sudden expenses — like an unexpected health care bills. Maybe they can’t afford their insulin, their inhalers, or their epipens anymore. And, of course, God forbid they end up in the emergency room or get out-of-network care.


Indeed, a hospital stay may result in a permanent reduction in income, even if you have insurance, according to a study released earlier this year. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Commonwealth Fund recently found that the percentage of Americans who feel confident they can afford the health care they need continues to fall. Only 62% re very or somewhat confident, down from 69% just three years ago. Twenty-four percent reported health care has become harder to afford over the last year.


Another new study found that 40% of us skipped a recommended test or treatment due to cost, and 44% skipped seeing a doctor when sick or injured due to concerns about costs. More feared the cost of a serious illness than they did the serious illness itself.


That is seriously wrong.


And there are no signs of anything improving. The number of uninsured is rising again. Actions by the Trump Administration to undermine the ACA exchange markets are estimated to have drastic increases on health insurance premiums — potentially jumping by 35% to 94% over the next three years. Plus, HHS has proposed rules for so-called short-term health insurance policies that the CMS


Actuary says will simply increase costs for everyone else, not to mention that those “covered” under those policies will find that coverage to be skimpy if/when they need it.


This all adds up. Kaiser Health News reports that, in addition to bankruptcies due to health care bills, nearly 40% of adults under 65 have had their credit scores lowered due to medical debts. A 2014 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report found that almost 20% of credit reports had at least one medical collection account listed.


The sad truth is that only 39% of Americans say they could handle an unexpected expense of even $1,000 — and 34% had had a major unexpected expense over the past year. Not surprisingly, we are doing a terrible job saving for retirement. Increasingly, we’re both saying we’ll have to rely on Social Security for our retirement income, while lamenting that we’re not very confident it will be there when we need it.


These problems are not about our having enough money. We do. They are not just problems for “poor people.” They are problems for the majority of us. These are problems of priorities, and somewhere along the way our have gotten screwed up.


We’re making too many poor excuses for not doing more and for not doing better. It’s time to stop.
This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting


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