‘This is America. Land Of The Free, And Home Of The Medical Bankruptcy’: Former U.S. Surgeon General Calls Out America’s Healthcare System

Dr. Jerome Adams blasted America’s healthcare system after receiving an ER bill totaling $4,896.43 for treatment for dehydration.

Dr. Jerome Adams, a former United States Surgeon General, and current Purdue University Health Equity Initiatives Director, blasted America’s healthcare system after he received a bill from an ER facility totaling $4,896.43 for treatment for dehydration.

As Fortune reported, Adams was billed the total after receiving three IV bags of fluids and one lab test. Even with insurance, Adams received a total that led him to post his indignation on social media.

“Yes folks. THIS is America. Land of the free, and home of the medical bankruptcy,” Adams wrote on X before noting that he did opt for a payment plan to help manage the total cost incurred by the emergency facility. 

Adams later told Business Insider, “If I’m in this situation with my knowledge and with my financial resources and with my bully pulpit, then the average Joe doesn’t stand a chance. The system is just broken.”

Adams continued, “There are many flaws in the system that would’ve caused other individuals to have gone into debt, have their credit ruined, or have to make choices about things they needed to do,” Adams said. “I’ve got three high schoolers, two kids heading to college. If I wasn’t in my income bracket, I might be making a choice as to whether or not to pay my medical bill or to pay my kid’s tuition.”

On March 1, KFF conducted a poll regarding the cost of American healthcare, asking American citizens their thoughts on their experience in the American healthcare system. According to their polling results, half of adults in America say that healthcare in America is difficult to afford, and 1 in 4 say that either they or a family member has faced difficulty in paying for healthcare in the past year. Additionally, the majority of those who are concerned about rising healthcare costs are the uninsured, low-income Americans, and Black or Latinx adults.

In 2019, as part of Nikole Hannah Jones’s The 1619 Project, a New York Times article suggested that a major reason why America has not adopted a single-payer system is because of race, or more accurately, racism. Jeneen Interlandi’s article traces the timeline of American healthcare policy from the Civil War antebellum era through the Obama era Affordable Healthcare Act. However, according to Evelynn Hammonds, a historian of science at Harvard University, “There has never been any period in American history where the health of Blacks was equal to that of whites. Disparity is built into the system.” Interlandi closes the article by noting that though the Affordable Healthcare Act helped with some of those disparities, there has never been a piece of federal policy that completely eliminated them.

For years, progressive politicians have been pushing for a single-payer system, but Axios cautions that the window to achieve sweeping changes in the healthcare system is closing rapidly. According to Democratic political strategist Chris Jennings, that is because the current political landscape will not allow it.

“The political environment does not allow for huge policy shifts,” Jennings said. “You can either deal with that by doing nothing or by taking an important step forward, and as much as you possibly can get, and laying the groundwork for larger progress when the opportunity arises.”

Jennings also said that though sweeping changes like Medicare For All will be a political impossibility going forward, that does not mean smaller, more incremental changes won’t have an effect. Jennings also called on the Democratic Party to take action to make health coverage more affordable for the average American. 

“In terms of policy design, they’re not whoppers,” Jennings said. “But we should not downplay the significance of finishing the job — so wherever you live, Americans would have access to affordable health coverage. To me, that’s meaningful; it’s the long-unfilled commitment of Democrats.”

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