A political conservative and liberal go head-to-head on different issues
This week’s question: What’s the biggest threat to the American family?
In America, we have never been more polarized. We see those who think differently than us, behave differently and live differently as stupid or lesser than. The Pew Research Center reported that 85% of Americans believe that debates have become less fact-based, less respectful and less focused.
That’s why we are here. We have chosen one person who tends to lean politically left and another who leans politically right. After being given a prompt and asked to provide their take, they must come together, in the end, to come up with a solution to the problems they see.
Conservative: Abigail Faulkner
Healthcare is something most college students don’t worry about. Most of us are covered by our parent’s health insurance until we are graduates. So, going to the doctor is something I avoid not because I can’t afford it but simply because I don’t have the time. Until last week, I hadn’t stopped to consider what health insurance costs my parents or how much it would cost me to be on my own plan.
I talked with my mom about ideas for this column and I asked her what she would talk about if she had a platform and could bring an issue to other people’s attention; her answer was healthcare.
My little brother has special needs. He has had braces on his teeth and has leg braces. He had spinal surgery last year to remove a build-up that was thought to be the root cause of his behavioral and developmental issues. But overall, he is a happy, high-energy little boy.
Even though my family is lucky enough to have medical coverage, we still have an outstanding medical balance. A life-changing surgery like my brothers was necessary, we couldn’t put it off. The health insurance system is something that my mom believes is crushing middle-class families and actively profits off the needs of families like mine.
Here is how health insurance works: each family has a deductible, which is the amount that you pay before insurance is willing to help you. The average deductible for individual coverage is $4,364 and for family coverage, the average for families sits around $8,439. These numbers vary from person to person and state to state. Some states like Missouri have much higher and other states much lower. Another source said that the averages are $3650 for a family and $2,000 for an individual.
To put those numbers into perspective the average family income in the United States is around $69,000 as reported by The Census Bureau. That means that 13% of your income would need to go to insurance before they are willing to make any of your payments. That’s before other expenses like groceries, utilities, rent and other necessities. As well as other things that aren’t considered necessities but are still important like school supplies.
Even once you hit your deductible, you will likely still have to make payments called copays, which is how much you pay after the insurance covers what they are willing to cover. If you have a $1000 doctor visit, your insurance will cover, depending on your plan, 80% of it or $800. Your co-pay would be 20% of that bill, or, $200. Some families have an 80/20 split or a 90/10 split.
You also have max out of pocket, which is the amount of money you will pay towards copays. The average max out of pocket is different than the average deductible. The average max out of pocket for an individual is $8,200 and the average for a family plan is $16,400. Please note these numbers do vary from person to person. Another source reported that the average was closer to $5,300. Regardless, once you reach your deductible and max out of pocket, then your insurance will cover 100% of medical expenses.
That means that if you are the average American family, you could be paying over $20,000 to medical bills before all your medical expenses are covered. Even though that is an outrageous number, it’s still better than not having insurance which would leave you even worse off.
Finally, your insurance isn’t even willing to cover all your expenses. You can only see your preferred providers and not all procedures that you may need or experimental treatments will be covered.
The growth of deductibles is simply outpacing American income. One report I read stated that in the last 10 years income had increased by 1% while deductible amounts had increased by 6%. A diagnosis like cancer could be detrimental to families that can barely make ends meet let alone also pay for expensive treatments.
Research by commonwealthfund.org reports that many adults aren’t insured at all or are underinsured. These adults are also likely to have more financial problems and worse credit.
This brings me back to what my mom said, “I don’t think it’s right that families should have to file for bankruptcy when their kid gets sick,” and she’s right. Health insurance is a looming crisis. It’s expensive and ineffective and something should be done to protect American families.
Liberal: Delaney Halloran
In order for the American family to exist, the American family has to survive. One of the biggest impediments to that survival is the huge disparities in wealth and income in the United States.
We talk a lot about the disappearing middle class, and it’s true, those who could be defined as ‘middle class’ are falling away, but perhaps a better way to think of this would be the ballooning of the lower and working classes. When we say the middle class is shrinking, we often ignore that, far more often than not, those in the middle class are experiencing downward mobility, not upward.
The National Bureau of Economic Research found that America’s most affluent families have added to their net worth steadily since 1983, while those at the bottom of the economic rungs have entered a stage of ‘negative wealth,’ wherein their debts exceed the cost of their assets.
Many might not shirk from this number. How much could the wealthy really own, and more importantly: who are the wealthy? Really, only those in the top 5% of the American population can be considered truly wealthy, and as a group, they own more than two-thirds of the nation’s wealth.
People often like to support the amount of inequality of those in the top 5 or 1%, because they like to hold onto the American dream of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and working their way to success. But the truth is that no amount of work will ever really allow the average American to make their way into that income bracket.
Many Americans with families work at jobs with an hourly income. In fact, 4.1 million working single moms work minimum wage jobs, as found by the Economic Policy Institute.
These mothers are expected to care for their families even though worker pay has not kept pace with productivity since the 1970s. Or put more differently, compensation for hourly workers has only increased 24% since 1979, even though worker productivity has increased 134%.
Working parents are meant to work harder, for less money, and still support their families.
Even with this knowledge, we still have this myth in America that says those in the top rungs of the economic ladder deserve their place there (and their tax breaks too), and more importantly, those at the bottom rungs deserve whatever poverty they may endure as well.
This kind of thinking is problematic for a few reasons. First of all, a study at U.C. Berkeley found that the richest 0.1% of Americans take in 196 times as much income as the bottom 90%. I doubt those in the top 0.1% actually work 196 times harder than the average American, and they certainly don’t work thousands of times harder than those at the bottom of the economic ladder, despite making thousands, even millions of times more.
Another problematic factor in this way of thinking is that poverty is cyclical, meaning that those born into poverty have an incredibly hard time making their way. We are punishing children because they aren’t born into the ‘right’ family with inadequate access to basic necessities, medical care, education, or economic opportunities.
Many American families have to make the difficult choice between whether to have utilities or food, whether they can keep their homes, whether they should take a trip to the doctor or the dentist, or neither. All the while, there are Americans paying next to nothing in taxes who could afford to solve world hunger if they wanted. These disparities are unacceptable.
Delaney, it is certainly not lost on me that we both took an economic viewpoint. The reality is, there are so many economic disparities and whether that is a result of the incomes not increasing, health insurance industries taking advantage of consumers, or both, it’s obvious that there are huge issues that need to be addressed.
As a grocery store employee and additionally a college student I know I could never afford to have an education without help. We college students are living out the reality that no matter how many hours a week I take on, I could never afford school.
I personally don’t think big industries and America’s wealthiest should get tax breaks because that extra money isn’t going towards employee wages. Large corporations probably aren’t putting those funds where they are supposed to. Instead, they are lining their pockets with it.
I can’t really find a point of yours I disagree with and I really enjoyed reading your point of view.
Abigail, you’re giving me a run for my money here: you want to change the healthcare system to reduce costs and are okay with increasing taxes on the richest Americans, are you sure you’re conservative?
In all seriousness, I also agree with you. I don’t know what solution you see for the healthcare system, but I also believe that the problems in that system are extremely daunting. I see the right to medical care as one of the most basic human rights, and the fact that “economic means” can stand in the way of that is highly disturbing.
Personally, I think we should have universal healthcare, and if we started taxing our nation’s most wealthy, that truly could be a reality in this country.