A comment in my previous post did not ring true to me at all, and I had to do a little reading to try to confirm it. It is true that there are discounts on hospital bills available to "charity cases," and after an outcry and a few class action suits, some hospital chains offered other discounts, but a lot of the uninsured are, as I said, often left paying the full freight of their hospital bills. This article in USA Today sums up my situation if I were to go freelance. The couple in question made over $48,000 a year but had no insurance at the time the husband was struck by an unexpected illness. They didn't qualify for a "charity" discount but couldn't afford the whopping hospital bill. There but for the grace of corporate slavery goes moi.
And the first chapter of this book: Uninsured in America. is available online.
The thing is, a lot of people who are uninsured are not "poor." A lot of employers just don't offer health insurance, and freelancers and contract workers can be making a really good living but still be unable to afford health insurance. Private insurance can be very expensive and even if you earn a good income, if you live in a place where housing is expensive it's often hard or impossible to pay for both. In the priority list, housing and transportation and so forth have to come before a hefty monthly bill for private health insurance. If your employer doesn't offer it, you're basically screwed. My own son is in this situation - he makes pretty good money but is uninsured. He wants to get private insurance, but right now the budget won't allow it. And many of his friends are in the same situation.
This is an issue I hold near and dear - as I said, my husband's illness was an eye-opener, and showed me just how close to the precipice most of us "comfortable middle class" people are every day, and how unaware I was, and how unaware and blissfully ignorant most people are. "The best health care system in the world" my ass.