The Ins and Outs of Health Policy and Care

By Solangel Rochels

(FROM ARNIC Observer_Vol 1_Issue 2)

OUR HEALTH IS AFFECTED by many factors, including where we live, genetics, our income, our educational status, and our relationships. These are known as “social determinants of health.”

photo_market (1)The dimensions of health can encompass “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” as defined by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

All nations in the world have a public health service. Each country or area has specific conditions and needs. In the U.S., the Public Health Service (PHS) is led by the Surgeon General of the United States and there also exists the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, headquartered in Atlanta. They perform national and international health activities. There are Public Health policies and programs such as Prevention of Infectious Diseases, Sanitation, Adolescent Pregnancy, Natural Disasters, and Environmental Protection, to name only a few.

Today, Public Health has begun to focus more on chronic diseases such as Cancer, Diabetes, and Heart Disease. At the moment, a world campaign seeks to limit saturated trans fats in the diet. Trans fats are very dangerous for health. You should check not only the total calories but also the total fat and the trans fats on food labels.

Spending on Public Health, however, should not be confused with expenditures on Health Care. The latter involves the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. In the U.S., in order to receive good and consistent care, a person needs health insurance. Immigrants with legal permanent status
residents or citizens), as are 95% of ARNIC students, can apply for Public Health Insurance. If your household income falls below a certain threshold, you can qualify for free or low cost public insurance like Medicaid, Family Health Plus, or Child Health Plus. It is extremely important to be aware and ask for them. Medicaid is free for pregnant women, children and teens under 18 years old, and people who are blind, or over 65 with low income.

Medicare is an insurance plan for people older than 65, but even those people who did not pay into it and do not collect Social Security can get it, however, the cost is high. For emergencies, all residents in NYC, even the undocumented and visitors, can find assistance at public hospitals, for example, Elmhurst in Queens, Bellevue in Manhattan, Sea View Hospital on Staten Island, Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, and Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. More information can be found at nyc.gov/hhc. In cases of critical emergencies, private hospitals charge special prices according to one`s situation.

Some workers have health insurance from their employers as part of a benefits package that may also include a pension program or 401(k), and vacation, sick, and personal days. There are different private health insurance plans; their premiums range from low to high and their coverage varies commensurate with cost.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012 more than 42 million Americans did not have any health insurance. Extending coverage to these people is a great challenge for the U.S. Perhaps raising income limits for Medicaid would be very helpful, and in addition other measures may include unemployment and part-time jobs benefits, and an increase in the minimum wage.

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