When my mom’s dentist told her to get a root canal, my mom said she would rather wait for three months until it was time to fly back to Bangladesh. It did not make sense to me. How was that the better option? After all, we immigrated to America for a “better life,” and despite having insurance, why did she feel the need to be in pain for three months instead of just getting the treatment? Turns out it was the cost of care; her treatment would have been $1,600 out of pocket. Fortunately, we had been saving for her flight back home that year and were able to get treated in Bangladesh.
According to the US Census, more than 92% of Americans have medical insurance, yet one in ten adults in the United States has medical debt. Most people I know live on fixed incomes, which takes us months, if not years, to save up for a particular expense. Thus, an unexpected medical bill can be disruptive to our livelihood. The medical debt crisis disproportionately affects people with disabilities, chronic health problems, and other illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, etc. For example, general insulin costs $60 and lasts less than a month; an inhaler costs $300 or more–these are the medications people need to stay alive! People need to pay for these medications out-of-pocket in the form of copays and deductibles, even after their insurance. These bills add up, and their exorbitant prices lead to literal deaths. There have been cases of people dying because, for example, they were trying to ration their insulin supply.
The lack of accessibility to affordable health care is an urgent crisis. Unfortunately, most POC communities already distrust the medical sector due to its history of discrimination against them. If the distrust continues, people will start to put off doctor visits and not see specialists that may save their lives. This crisis affects us all, so we must step up and take charge if we want our loved ones to receive the affordable, quality treatment that they deserve and need to survive.
A step towards change is ensuring the Health Care Improvement Act, Bill S.352, currently debated on the floor of Congress, gets passed! Contact your senator and show your support for the bill, which is a step towards change. We must work together to get the federal government to put price caps on medications such as insulin and inhalers, or else the pharmaceutical companies will keep profiting from people’s pain. No one should have to stay in pain or wait till the next time they fly to a different country to get affordable treatment.
Nazrin Nahar was raised in Bangladesh and moved to the United States in 2019. She is currently a Freshman at Baruch College, majoring in International Business.
*This bill makes various changes to the health care marketplace, such as expanding premium assistance, encouraging states to expand Medicaid, and establishing a public health insurance option… The bill authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate with manufacturers for the prices of prescription drugs offered through Medicare [https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/352]*