Dr. Tim Livermore: Access to health care is best way to prevent disease
Illness and injuries happen to us all. A cough, fever, or headache does not care who you are.
I am a doctor specializing in public health and general preventive medicine. I am also the county health officer with the Merced County Department of Public Health. A contagious disease like the flu will find you and your family, no matter who you are or where you live. But we can control the spread of illness with prevention. Prevention works best if you have access to health care: insurance and a primary care provider.
A primary care provider knows you and can see you soon when needed. Many people without access must wait without treatment. For many, the longer they wait, the sicker and harder to treat they become, and the more illness they spread. Many go to emergency room, which are are expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average primary care visit runs about $145, but a trip to the ER is about $1,349. Hospitalizations cost much more.
The difference must be paid by others, through higher insurance premiums and taxes. Besides, emergency rooms are a community asset for true emergencies – not for non-emergencies.
Millions of Americans have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but there are gaps. About 3.4 million Californians are still uninsured. In many places, there are just not enough health professionals to go around.
Health care coverage for everyone is the best prevention. It saves money. It saves lives.