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Health Care: Then, Now and in the Future

The Washington Post/Getty Images
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Farai Chideya puts in historical perspective the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the most important provisions of the Affordable Care Act. She sees health care becoming bifurcated not only between today's haves and have-nots but also between people who can afford more expensive advanced technologies and lifesaving approaches and those who cannot.

Twenty years ago U.S. healthcare cost $2800, on average, per person. Ten years ago, that figure had risen to $4700 per person. And four years ago, in 2008, it was $7500 per person. (From exhibit 4A in this Kaiser Family Foundation Report.) Over the same period, the portion of Americans without insurance has risen. In 1990, 14.1 percent of Americans were uninsured. In 2000, 13.1 percent were uninsured. Today, 16.3% of Americans are uninsured (approximately 50 million people), in part because of job losses and employers cutting back on coverage …

But as I look down the road 5, 10, 20 years, I see healthcare becoming bifurcated between not only today's haves and have-nots, but between people who can afford more expensive advanced technologies and life-saving approaches. We don't even have to look into the future. One great example from the present is Steve Jobs. The Apple founder bought a house in Tennessee, where he received his transplant. As William Saletan wrote in Slate, "[T]he wait in Northern California [where Jobs lived] was three times longer than the wait in Tennessee." (Saletan also points out that few people with the kind of [metastasized] cancer that Jobs had have ordinarily qualified for a liver transplant, because of the chance of it attacking the new organ.) The average waiting time for a liver transplant is nearly a year, but varies widely by state and medical institution.



The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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