How does the US healthcare system work?
Basic healthcare is not considered a “universal right” in America. There is no NHS-equivalent.
Instead, the industry is completely privatised. There’s a network of hospitals and doctors surgeries across the nation, all run by independent companies. In America, once someone has received treatment, they’re left with a bill – which can range from hefty to downright massive. It all depends on what the treatment was for.
This is where insurance companies come in. If they can afford it, most Americans 91.2%, to be precise have some form of medical cover. This means that, by paying money each month to their provider, they won’t have to foot the bill once something bad happens. And in the US, the cost of healthcare is so high that – without medical cover – “footing the bill” can mean bankruptcy.Fortunately, the US government has two schemes in place to help Americans get the healthcare they need.
What is Medicaid?
Established in 1965, Medicaid is a national public health insurance program funded by income tax. If an individual has an income below the Federal Poverty Level or has a particular disability, they will have their medical cover partially paid for by their state government. This ‘cover’ includes medicines, doctors, hospitalisations, custodial care, and nursing home care. In 2018, over 17% of the US population was covered by Medicaid.
What is Medicare?
Medicare is for people aged 65 or over, regardless of income. If an individual has paid Medicare taxes on their earnings while working, they automatically qualify for Medicare. For most people, Medicare support provides a huge reduction in insurance premiums, but still requires a small payment each month.