Why Americans Go Broke

OPINIONS: Javier Boersma examines American’s spending habits with a new lens. 

What do you think is the number one reason Americans go bankrupt? Losing their jobs? Too many bills? Spending money they don’t have? The answer is healthcare. Healthcare is the number one reason Americans go broke and, if you think about it, it’s not that surprising. Even with health insurance, medical attention costs anywhere from 50 dollars for a check-up, to thousands for an emergency room visit. But, why is this?  

America spends nearly twice as much money on healthcare as most other first-world countries. One would assume that spending all that extra money would provide an advantage, as well as, access to some of the best medical treatment in the world. Yet, truthfully, this isn’t the case. According to a list crafted by the World Health Organization, the U.S. healthcare system is globally ranked 38th. Ironically, some of the countries listed ahead of the U.S. in the rankings include Costa Rica, Morocco and Greece. When compared to our country, it’s incontestable that these countries have minuscule economies. The question remains: why can’t one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the developed world have a healthcare system to match? The answer is greed. America has a privatized healthcare system, as opposed to other developed nations, such as EU countries and Canada, with their universal healthcare systems.

Healthcare expenses drain American incomes, generating immense stress especially among working class families. Worrying about medical bills and paying for prescribed medications are just the start of the financial struggles and stress faced due to the massive expense of proper treatment. With such stress placed on themselves and their families, research shows that American teenagers have some of the worst anxiety levels of recent generations. A study by the National Survey of Children’s Health, between 2007 and 2012, found that the anxiety levels of youth between the ages of 6 and 17 increased by a whopping 20 percent. What, though, causes such a sharp rise in teenage anxiety levels? Data collected in a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association for the Stress in America provides several reasons for this concerning increase. One of the most commonly reported sources of stress in teens is the aforementioned family financial struggles.

In recent years, an Instagram photo of someone’s shocking medical bill after receiving treatment for a rattlesnake bite, went viral. The final bill came out to the mammoth sum of $153,161.25, enough to pay for a new car, or for an average 4 year college tuition–almost 3 times over. Snopes, a fact checking website, disproved dubious viewers by verifying that the staggering cost was, indeed, true. Some comments on the post joked that they “woulda just let God take me,” or that they’d “just walk it off then.” Although scrolling through these comments was entertaining, it pointed to a bigger problem. America’s healthcare is flawed. The privatized system is not compatible with today’s world of unpredictably fluctuating wages and the average millennial income being only around $35,592. As I, a sophomore in high school, slowly integrate into the real world,the question lingers: will I be forced to pay nearly 5 years of my full income just to stay alive?