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Your Guide to the Difficulties of American Healthcare

The current United States healthcare system is a heavily debated topic as the 2020 election comes into full swing. Some are proclaiming a transition to Medicare for all and others are pushing for a public option that allows individuals to choose their plans, including government-provided options. To help you better understand the difficulties facing the healthcare system, as well as the challenges of navigating it, let’s explore in-depth just how the system works and what can be done to mitigate the stress of accessing care.

The Financial and Legal Challenges of Navigating Healthcare

Over 44 million Americans are uninsured with another 38 million having inadequate insurance. The lack of insurance or appropriate coverage is one of the biggest hurdles facing Americans when it comes to accessing healthcare services. Without necessary coverage, millions of Americans face crushing medical debt or the possibility of forgoing needed treatment to avoid debt they cannot pay.

These facts have been thrown to the forefront of the 2020 political debates, with each candidate putting forth their solutions to help lift this burden off the shoulders of the people. However, regardless of who enters into office, the difficulties facing Americans now and those already struggling with medical debt is something that must also be taken into consideration.

Already it costs over $250 billion to process the 30 billion healthcare transactions that occur every year. Adding to that are the 20,000 malpractice claims which are filed by patients and family members each year. The problem here comprises both how the medical industry is structured and how lower rates of coverage result in underinsured Americans receiving a lower standard of care. Studies indicate that uninsured or underinsured individuals are less likely to receive preventative care or services for both major health issues and chronic conditions that would otherwise be treatable.

Arguments against Medicare for all and healthcare reform insist that a higher influx of patients now able to seek affordable treatment will result in even higher rates of malpractice, though many counter-argue that adequate reform will reduce the number of claims due to more readily accessible superior care programs. To understand the truth, let’s look that the top reasons people file malpractice claims as reported in a study published in J Law Med Ethics.

  • 33 percent of respondents answered that they were advised to sue from someone outside of their immediate family, 56% of which were advised by someone in the medical field.
  • 24 percent of respondents said that they sued for malpractice because they needed money for long-term care.
  • Another 24 percent said that they were intentionally misled by a healthcare provider.
  • 20 percent of respondents said they sued because their child wouldn’t be able to have a future.
  • Another 20 percent said they filed a claim to get more information that they felt had been withheld from them.
  • 19 percent of respondents filed because they wanted to prevent future errors or get justice for their malpractice injury.

As this study shows, out of 127 families surveyed, a majority of malpractice cases were filed at the advice of a medical professional or because a family either needed money or felt they had been misled intentionally. Though the survey conducted was only on a small group, it shows that one of the top concerns facing Americans is the high cost of care which leads to legal entanglement in the hopes of mitigating the burden.

Power of Attorney

Another legal issue that many Americans face is obtaining acceptance as powers of attorney. About 63 percent of those surveyed by the Joint Editorial Board of Uniform Trust reported that they had occasional difficulty, with another 17 percent saying they had frequent difficulty. Having the power of attorney over healthcare is important if an individual is incapacitated and unable to make healthcare decisions for themselves. When family members have difficulty being accepted in this role, it can lead to unnecessary stress, especially if the problems are occurring in the middle of a medical emergency. If the power of attorney is rejected, it’s often up to the family to seek out a lawyer to help them get approval. These difficulties, coupled with the challenges of haggling with insurance companies or navigating healthcare costs upfront, contributes to the growing frustration and outright avoidance of medical intervention for potentially treatable issues and concerns.

The Debate in 2020

As we’ve discussed, healthcare is one of the foremost debate topics of the 2020 election, but voters need to understand the differences in the plans that are being put forth. Universal coverage, for instance, would attempt to provide insurance for all American residents. In other countries that have this system implemented, these services are paid for by either public or private programs, sometimes a combination of both. Alternatively, a single-payer healthcare system utilizes one entity — not necessarily the government — which pays for all healthcare services. Contrary to popular belief this is not a form of socialized medicine, which would instead consist of government ownership over all medical facilities, professionals, and payment plans.

That said, a majority of Americans are also split on how healthcare should be reformed, with most being concerned about the overall cost they are paying, as opposed to the system used to insure them. As of 2016, the United States has been spending twice as much as other Western nations on healthcare, with the U.S. spending 25 percent more than the second-highest spending nation, Switzerland. And a recent survey of voters in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire show that voters there are more concerned about out of pocket costs and not the insurance coverage itself.

Different Ideas

Both parties have various solutions on how to fix the rising costs of healthcare, though even along party lines there are not concrete agreed on solutions. Most in the Democratic party wish to see the government play a larger role in healthcare, while Republicans are rallying for less government interference and more free-market programs. Both solutions bear weight, though unless a solution can be agreed upon, healthcare will likely remain a hot debate topic for decades of elections to come.

In addition to access to care, there are also different ideas about types of care. Long-term care, mental health services, and addiction rehabilitation have also become hot button issues that hopeful candidates are talking about this election season. Once again at the heart of these problems lies the cost of care and accessibility. Mental health and addiction services, in particular, are areas in which the healthcare system is severely lacking. Even as though some candidates have put forth plans for reform in these areas, only a few have devised plans regarding Americans in rural areas and those living with disabilities.

What Can Be Done to Mitigate Difficulty in Accessing Care?

First and foremost the healthcare system needs to be reformed to match the current needs of American citizens and it needs to be done in a way that the common public can understand. This means removing unnecessary jargon and instead laying out healthcare plans in a way that doesn’t exclude individuals without a medical degree. Often families have the most difficulty when it comes to trying to understand exactly what their insurance plans cover and what all they are being charged for. This confusion can lead to people being overcharged for services and paying more simply because they cannot understand the ins and outs of the current medical system.

Furthermore, there needs to be a collective move to bring down the price of necessary treatments and drugs to ensure that they are both accessible and affordable for every American. Because cost is the number one concern of voters in this election, this issue is likely to be the one talked about and targeted the most. Until healthcare costs can be reigned in, we will likely continue to see the same aversion to care and the denial of treatment in fear of debt accumulation that we have seen for the past decade.

While these changes are likely to not be seen immediately, what we can do now is not hesitate to ask questions and demand answers to all of our healthcare concerns. If you don’t understand your current policy and feel that you are underinsured, speak to your insurance company and ask them to explain your policy in full.

If you’re currently without insurance and need care, you can call doctors, hospitals, and urgent care centers in your area and ask for prices. Often urgent care centers offer faster and more affordable care than hospitals or doctor’s offices. You can also ask your doctor to prescribe a generic version of a prescription you need or use a discount app to save on the cost.

The healthcare system is tricky at best to navigate, but if people continue to speak up about their difficulties, it’s likely that soon there will be a solution reached that can better benefit the American people.

Is America’s Healthcare Ready For The Silver Tsunami?

With the Baby Boomer generation aging and gradually having advanced healthcare needs, America seems like it’s going to have a hard time keeping up. The so-called “silver tsunami” isn’t a natural disaster that causes flooding, but rather a test of the United States’ healthcare capacities. This tsunami carries a hefty amount of power just like its natural namesake, as it could potentially force change in the U.S over time. Already, the impacts of generational population sizes are beginning to show where the weak points are in the nation’s care options.

Baby Boomers Aging

Every generation has some natural fluctuations in numbers, but the Baby Boomer generation has been notoriously large. Because of this, many current systems in place are unequipped to deal with the generation’s large numbers. Now, as the generation ages and the Silver Tsunami approaches, more members of the generation will require additional medical intervention.

Many of these medical needs are fairly commonplace, such as hearing aids and similar assistive devices. More than 10 million people in the U.S. use hearing aids. However, with more strain being put on the nation’s healthcare system, some Boomers are falling through the cracks. This neglect can have a major impact on the health of Boomers, especially in the face breakouts of diseases. The common cold may be easy enough for an older American to overcome since the average person makes a full recovery in about 10 days, but viruses like influenza and measles pose a serious danger. If at-risk seniors don’t have access to the vaccines and care they need to fight afflictions like these, they could lose their lives.

Cracks In System Exposed

With more people relying on healthcare and even assisted living, more problems with the systems currently in place are being exposed. In some cases, this can take the form of highly costly procedures that are necessary for comfortable aging. This is particularly true of complicated interventions, such as cardiopulmonary bypass. Gibbon developed the cardiopulmonary bypass in 1953, and it’s still often a necessary measure in healthcare. The high cost, unfortunately, leads many individuals to not receive the care they need to live longer, healthier lives.

Cost isn’t the only harmful element of the current American healthcare system. When it comes to treating the elderly, malpractice and even abuse occur at alarmingly high rates. Elderly patients often lack necessary representation and advocacy when it comes to their care. A recent study estimated that only one in 14 cases of elder abuse are ever reported to authorities. With an aging population, the United States will be in need of better, more reliable care for the elderly.

Preparing Future Healthcare

Luckily, some are taking steps to begin preparing for the Silver Tsunami today. Improving the nation’s healthcare system will take time, and as the next presidential election approaches, healthcare will continue to be a subject of debate. However, some areas across the nation have already begun training additional medical care staff in order to prepare for the needs of an older demographic of patients. With improved training and changes to healthcare, it’s possible that medical treatment across the board will become more affordable. This could even extend into procedures often seen as aesthetic in nature; today, some four million Americans are wearing braces, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. With potentially drastic measures needed to make healthcare affordable enough for the vast aging population, it’s possible that healthcare could gradually become more affordable.

With the Baby Boomer population aging rapidly, adaptations in healthcare must be created in order to accommodate the increased demands. Currently, the healthcare system will struggle to care for everyone reaching their elderly years. In the years to come, the United States will need to adapt in order to care for all of its elderly citizens effectively and affordably.

What Can We Do About America’s Skilled Labor Shortage?

As the new decade begins, America is facing a difficult situation when it comes to employment and jobs. While more people than ever are graduating from higher education, they’re facing difficulty when seeking employment. Meanwhile, the nation faces an increasing lack of skilled labor, with trade professions having difficulty in staffing. With more people seeking employment after college, there’s increasingly a lack of people taking jobs in skilled trades, creating an employment gap based on education and training.

The Call Of Higher Education

With college education being more expensive than ever, why are more students attending when there are plenty of available jobs that don’t require a college degree? As a college education becomes more common, there’s increasing pressure from previous generations to pursue higher education. Often, attending college is now seen as the inevitable next step after high school. Public school systems tend to perpetuate this assumption. Half of the public school workforce consists of teachers. The other 50% are guidance counselors, nurses, speech therapists, etc. Regardless of staff status, many public school workers and teachers push their students to seek a college education, even when doing so is financially unwise.

Stigma Against Skilled Labor

In addition to the pressure to attend higher education, many Americans pursue college due to the seemingly prevalent stigma against careers in skilled labor. Trade professions, such as carpentry, plumbing, and repairs, often are seen as being “below” office work. This pushes many recent college graduates into part-time temporary or contract positions in an office environment. More than three million temporary and contract employees work for America’s staffing companies during an average week.

However, these skilled trade professions can actually pay more than the standard office job by a wide margin. Many skilled labor careers offer a high income, better hours, and better long-term prospects than college graduates will be able to find in other fields. Many capable individuals are, unfortunately, missing out on excellent careers due to widespread stigma against skilled labor.

Economic Impacts

The skilled labor shortage isn’t only impacting individuals’ career prospects; it also comes with a significant disadvantage for the nation’s economy. Current estimates suggest that the skilled labor shortage could cost as much as $2.5 trillion, with up to 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Additionally, the stigma against trade skills and the pressure to pursue higher education may worsen America’s existing student debt problems. Many students are forced to take out expensive loans to afford college tuition, pushing them into severe lifelong debt. This debt impacts all aspects of individual and national economics, with ripple effects as far-reaching as the settlement of life insurance payments. Approximately 86 percent of life insurance policies lapse without any benefit ever paid. With student debts climbing and more unfilled positions in certain industries, it’s clear that the nation will need to find solutions.

Fixing The Problems

Encouraging more people to pursue careers in skilled labor won’t happen overnight. Major cultural and structural shifts will need to occur for changes to take place long-term. During schooling, more students need to be made aware that there are acceptable career choices within skilled labor that pay well and don’t require a college degree. Not all of these careers require so-called “hard labor” either; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are an estimated 7,880 tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers across the nation. Informing current students about their options ensures that a larger percentage of them will move into these positions in the future.

But what can be done for positions that are currently vacant? Is waiting for students to graduate from high school first necessary? There are several more immediate intervention options available, and almost all of them rely on educating and retraining unemployed or underemployed individuals. It’s technically possible for people to educate themselves for entry into these careers. There are over 119,000 libraries in the United States. Most have resources or learning materials available to help with retraining.

However, many of these careers require some degree of training through trade schools. Directing funds towards training and retraining could help, and in many cases, it already has. Several veteran programs allow veterans to gain an education that can help them enter into well-paying skilled trade jobs. Veterans of the Armed Services can apply for G.I. Bill benefits online, making it easier than ever to receive the necessary financial support for education.

As 2020 begins, the skilled labor shortage continues to pose problems for the nation’s employment and economy. However, with increased resources and promotion of skilled labor careers at earlier ages, it may be possible to combat the shortage and avoid continued employment gaps over time.

Healthcare Costs Impacting Children Nationwide

As healthcare costs continue to climb into the new decade, many families are feeling the strain more than ever. Unlike other insurances like life insurance, which 60 percent of Americans have, health insurance is essential for people of all ages to have access to. This necessity puts a huge weight on parents’ shoulders. While some protections are in place to support those in need of assistance, gaps in coverage and certain restrictions can leave middle-class families and their children in a precarious position. The new year will undoubtedly be a notable year for American politics. With this in mind, only time will tell what the future holds for the nation’s healthcare.

Healthcare Access Limited, Harming Children

With healthcare costs climbing rapidly for both the insured and uninsured, many parents are being forced to make incredibly difficult decisions when it comes to the care and protection of their children. In some cases, parents are unable to afford basic healthcare costs for their children, veering into a state of neglect. Neglect was the top reason why Kentucky children were removed from their homes between 2010 and 2015, making up 68.6 percent of removals. However, this is not always due to genuine malintent on the part of the parents. In some cases, costs have simply spiraled out of control, and they’re no longer able to support their children as well as themselves.

The result is a young population with worsening healthcare. Children in lower-income communities often lack resources such as mental healthcare support, routine exams, and more. However, this lack of resources isn’t exclusively due to an increasingly high cost; some areas simply lack the staff to support these services.

Staffing Shortages Despite High Costs

While costs remain high, the funds aren’t always directed where they need to be in order to provide more support for struggling communities. Many areas, particularly when it comes to psychiatry and psychology, are critically understaffed. Some studies show there are about 7.2 million open healthcare positions available in the world today because of staffing shortages. Shortages tend to be particularly high in low-income communities, as the positions often pay less than the average salary for the job. This pushes doctors and medical professionals to wealthier communities, rather than to communities that are most in need of additional medical services.

Long-Term Impacts On Population

Over time, the lack of medical resources in necessary areas could lead to long-lasting consequences. Being healthy doesn’t just consist of eating nutritious food and going on hikes, a mile of which can burn over 500 calories. To have the best chances of living a healthy life, you need easy access to professional healthcare. Children who grow up in communities that lack vital health resources will likely be less healthy than their peers. The cycle tends to perpetuate itself, as those who are less healthy may struggle with maintaining long-term jobs or higher-paying careers.

In theory, various government-supported programs exist to interrupt this cycle. However, these programs often are difficult to access and can have vital gaps in coverage. The Americans with Disability Act provides that reasonable accommodations must be provided to individuals who have a qualifying disability, absent a hardship caused to the employer. However, not every disability will qualify, and assistance may not be available to those who make just enough to not meet financial assistance requirements.

As 2020 quickly approaches, it’s uncertain what the future of the nation’s healthcare holds. The upcoming year will be an important one for American politics, and the debate over healthcare will continue up to and beyond the next presidential election. With so many of the nation’s most vulnerable population riding on the healthcare debate, hopefully a solution to the dilemma will be reached soon.

Why More Companies Are Offering Telecommuting

Nowadays, more and more businesses are moving operations and content online. There’s no easier place to see the effects of this than in advertising; in today’s world, if your business doesn’t have a quality website, it’s not likely to succeed in an increasingly digital environment. Any old website won’t do either – 38 percent of Internet users will stop engaging with a website if the layout is unattractive.

However, some companies are taking it one step further and using online technology to allow employees to work from home. Remote work and telecommuting are becoming more popular options for conducting work, and both employees and employers are seeing the benefits.

Telecommuting: The New Normal?

For most people, the idea of a full-time job includes a long commute to work, sitting at a desk in an office, putting in their hours, and driving home at the end of the day. However, as we enter into a new decade, the reality is often fairly different. Most of these jobs don’t necessarily need to be done in the office. Up to 64 million U.S employees – 50 percent of the workforce – hold a job that is compatible with at least part-time telework. As most Internet providers gradually increase their service speeds and computers become capable of handling more tasks, working from home is infinitely easier.

People have now become somewhat accustomed to this new era of fast internet speeds and easily-accessed information. In fact, as many as 47 percent of consumers expect websites they visit to load in just two seconds or less. The technology is firmly in place, and this is leading more employers to realize that a fair amount of work can be done not in the office, but on a home computer.

Save Time And Money Without Commutes

Working at home comes with a variety of benefits for employees, but the most significant benefit for a majority of employees is no longer having to worry about a commute. Driving to work takes time and money, cutting into employees’ pay through gas costs, car maintenance, and more. Being able to work from home allows employees to skip the commute altogether and instead spend crucial time focusing on tasks related to their jobs. Additionally, driving less is inherently safer; there are approximately six million car accidents in the U.S. each year, and working from home eliminates the risk of an accident during a commute to work.

Increased Accessibility

This push towards telecommuting and remote work has the potential to make life easier and more comfortable for the average employee but could be genuinely lifechanging for the disability community. Often, people with disabilities have an incredibly difficult time finding work due to limited accessibility in the workplace.

Consider, for example, a potential employee with hearing loss. Approximately 15 percent of American adults aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Even with ADA reasonable accommodations, it can be difficult to conduct routine business with hearing impairment, such as attending meetings, listening to phone conferences, and so on. Being able to work at home from a computer, with the bulk of work being through online, written communication, increases accessibility. This makes full-time work more available to a wider demographic, improving the lives of those with disabilities that make work difficult or otherwise impossible.

Not Fit For Everyone

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to access the benefits of working from home just yet – there are still a great many jobs that require employees to physically be present at the workplace. For example, the employment of medical lab technologists and technicians is expected to grow by 13% by 2026. While these jobs do deal heavily with technology, the additional equipment needed to perform the job, as well as sanitary spaces, makes a physical workplace mandatory.

However, for the many employees who work primarily on computers or through digital platforms, telecommuting is becoming a more realistic option by the day. As reliance on online technologies increases, it’s likely that more office-work jobs will transition to taking place partially or entirely online.

Natural Gas Supplies Down, Prices Up Ahead Of Winter

As colder winter weather approaches for a majority of the country, many regions will soon see climbing prices for natural gas. The global specialty gas market is forecast to surpass $14 billion by 2026, yet at the same time, it seems supplies for gas may be shrinking. With domestic natural gas supplies shrinking and prices soaring due to demand, politicians are struggling with how to resolve the issue. With some of the harshest winter weather just around the corner, the future of natural gas as a source of heat for many households in the nation is uncertain.

Prices Pushing Higher

As the supply of any product decreases, prices are nearly guaranteed to rise. This seems to be the case as well for natural gas supplies currently. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Thursday that domestic supplies of natural gas fell by 94 billion cubic feet for the week ending November 8. This slowly decreasing supply is leading, in turn, to rising prices going into the end of 2019. With current temperatures suggesting a cold winter, this could mean higher utility bills for the large percentage of the nation relying on natural gas for heating.

Demand For Pipelines

To meet the increasing demands for natural gas, largely for heating purposes during the winter months, many energy executives are pushing for the creation of new pipelines. On one hand, the increase in pipeline construction would mean more jobs being created – as of July 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 178,400 people working in the Oil and Gas Extraction industry in the United States.

However, this comes at a cost to both the environment and the areas where these pipelines are being constructed, leading to certain politicians limiting actions of these companies in the area. Governor Cuomo of New York has threatened to revoke National Grid’s license to operate its downstate gas business if it doesn’t have a plan by November 26. Continuing to operate after this date, if Cuomo follows through, could result in serious legal consequences for National Grid. Since 2007, a person charged with a 3rd or subsequent offense in their lifetime can be charged with a felony.

The Potential Costs

With natural gas becoming more expensive and supplies seeming to shrink, the potential human cost could become a problem. Natural gas is responsible for heat in many of America’s homes, and decreased supplies leading into winter could spell trouble for many families. Similarly, issues with pipeline construction could result in potentially toxic concentrations of certain gases; even with simple carbon dioxide, three to five percent may cause rapid breathing and headaches, 7 percent to 12 percent intensifies these symptoms and may cause unconsciousness. Higher levels can lead to suffocation.

While it remains unclear what exactly the future holds with regards to domestic natural gas supplies, it’s likely that increased prices will at least impact consumers for some time. Natural gas for home heat may increase in price slightly, if only temporarily until a solution is found. If natural gas prices continue to rise in the long-term, however, this winter will prove to be a very difficult one for some of the nation’s poorest households. A cold winter and climbing natural gas prices could be challenging for many families, but hopefully, an alternative solution will be found relatively shortly.

The Holiday Aftermath: How To Reset Your Workout

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and you know what that means: Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, pie, sweet potatoes, and every other delicious, carb-heavy food you can imagine. However, that’s not always the most exciting prospect if you’re on a diet. If after Thanksgiving you find yourself sluggish and struggling to get back to your normal healthy diet, here are a few exercise tips that can get you back on track.

The hard part: getting started

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the hardest part of getting back into the swing of things after a big holiday is getting your momentum back. Disruptions to your normal routine make it easy to put off working out again, especially if you generally live a fairly sedentary lifestyle. There’s no shame in struggling to stay active; in fact, around 28.0% of Americans, or 80.2 million people, aged six and older are physically inactive. The best way to get past this is to pick a day and do some sort of exercise – it doesn’t have to be much, it just has to be enough to get you off the couch. From there, you can use these methods to stay moving more frequently.

Pick an activity you like

When most people think of exercise, they think of it as a hassle or a boring part of their day they don’t want to do. Instead, try to pick an activity you already know you enjoy and make it into your daily workout. Are you a sports fan? Instead of watching your favorite game on TV, get involved in the action yourself. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to see benefits – simply playing tennis for fun, for example, can burn around 169 calories in 30 minutes for a woman, and 208 calories in 30 minutes for an average man. Many gyms offer indoor spaces for you to practice your favorite sport, so pick an activity and get to it.

Take advantage of chores

Not much of a sports fan? There are still plenty of opportunities for you to tackle two chores in one by incorporating exercise into your other daily to-dos. Try to stay moving while cleaning up around the house, or take a few more trips up and down the stairs instead of carrying everything in one go. If you’ve got a household pet, try taking them on more frequent walks. Most dogs benefit from daily aerobic exercise and a 30-minute walk, and your own fitness goals can benefit as well.

Have fun with it

Finally, one of the easiest ways to get back into the swing of working out is to make it as fun as possible. The more enjoyable you find exercise, the more likely you are to keep at it, even on days where you might feel a bit tired. Set goals and reward yourself for hitting them. On top of that, try adding something you enjoy to your normal workout routine, like listening to music. Listening to music while exercising can actually improve work out performance by 15%. Maybe invite a friend or two and turn your work-out routine into a group activity. The more ways you can make exercise enjoyable, the likelier it is you’ll be able to get back to it after the holidays.

Thanksgiving can throw a serious wrench into anyone’s diet and exercise plans, and if you’re not careful, these bad habits can set you up for a struggle going into the new year. Instead, make use of these tips to crush your fitness goals as 2019 draws to a close.