Health-care system often discriminatory

To the editor:

The disparities of the health-care system in the United States have affected millions of Americans, especially pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those in the lower socio-economic groups.

There are approximately 46 million people who do not have health insurance coverage, and this number has the potential to increase over the next decade, if the situation is not addressed.

An emergency room visit for one of these families can mean exorbitant medical bills. Adequate prenatal care for pregnant women without health insurance is just "not happening." In addition to the lack of medical coverage, health-care discrimination is also prevalent among the poorest, the sickest, the eldest and the most disabled people nationwide, based on a recent report by PR Newswire.

For example, the Congressional Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was created to decrease Medicare benefits for those who receive dual eligibility. However, the same Act created a two-phase system that has been discriminatory, whereby wealthy Medicare recipients receive full benefits and poor recipients receive partial Medicare benefits.

I have a friend who is currently six months pregnant, with no health coverage and, therefore, cannot afford prenatal care. Her husband was laid-off from his job of ten years. She has not worked for the last four years. She has tried several free clinics in an effort to access prenatal care. She was turned away, not once, not twice, but numerous times.

Furthermore, she was told that accessing prenatal care would cost $450 for the first visit and an additional $130 per visit in most of these clinics, not including labor cost. How can a family with no income afford the exorbitant prenatal care cost?

In July 2009, the Louisiana Legislature voted unanimously, asking Congress to stop the nationwide health-care discrimination against approximately five million people.

The Georgia Legislature should consider passing similar legislation. Far too many Americans -- communities of color, the poor, immigrants, the uninsured, the under-insured, the elderly, and pregnant women -- are in dire need of affordable healthcare.

America needs affordable healthcare that will address the disparities and improve the overall system for all.

ELNA JEANTINE McDonough Henry County Healthcare Advocates