Affordability of quality care is fundamental for the functioning of any society. Concerns around access to healthcare in the United States are growing as the shortcomings of the system become more and more apparent to the public, care providers, and the authorities. There are a number of issues in American medicine that compromise its efficiency and hinder further development. The problems include extreme orientation to profit, lack of effective government regulations, inefficient functioning of the institute of medical insurance, and inadequate pricing.
As a consequence, these flaws lead to disparity in access to medicine, bankruptcies, worsened patient outcomes, and increased mortality, resulting in damage to the reputation of the healthcare system. Overcoming these challenges by reforming American medicine and making quality care more affordable is necessary for good public health, and it will help promote equity and social stability in the country.
A serious lack of affordability characterizes the current situation in healthcare in the United States. The way the American medical system is organized and run leads to unequal access to high-quality treatments due to very high costs. Study of the cost of cancer medication across different nations suggests that the United States has the highest prices for such drugs in the world (Goldstein et al., 2016).
These statistics shows that affordability of quality care for the general population is deficient in America, especially when compared with developed European counties. The problem is especially serious when it comes to the situation with access to vital intervention and pharmaceuticals for diseases like cancer. It raises a question of ethics regarding pricing policies of medical organization, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. Successful and highly profitable operation of these businesses in the market comes at the cost of affordability of quality care for citizens, which stops people from receiving the help that they need.
The institute of medical insurance is one of the main reasons for the desparity in access to quality medical care. As it has been shown in research, the place of residence and socioeconomic status have a significant effect on the availability of insurance (Caldwell, Ford, Wallace, Wang, & Takahashi, 2016).
It means that, for people from poor communities and the unemployed, the cost of coverage is too high, and many such persons do not have it. Such a tendency leaves the individuals from these groups completely unprotected in case of illness and creates a major barrier to using the benefits of modern medicine. This is a major problem that contributes to inequality in the country and leads to bad health outcomes for persons from socially disadvantaged groups. Thus, improving access to medical insurance for low-income people is needed to ensure that quality care is affordable for all citizens regardless of their wealth and status.
In addition to that, the high cost of medicine is the cause of a serious issue in American society. Personal bankruptcies are a big problem that affects a substantial number of households around the county, breaking families and ruining lives of many people. Because of the extremely high prices in health care, inability to pay medical bills is one of the most common causes for bankruptcies (Caldwell et al., 2016). Often, a necessity to pay for medical treatment in case of unexpected illness or an accident is the last nail in the coffin for individuals who are already in a financially vulnerable position. In such a situation, even people who have stable jobs cannot handle the payments, if, for some reason, their insurance does not cover the treatment.
Thus, this situation puts millions of Americans in a risk group, affecting not only the poor but also the relatively wealthy middle class. Making quality care more affordable will significantly reduce the number of medical bankruptcies. It will help save the lives of millions of people and have an overall positive effect on society, making citizens feel protected and more confident.
The high cost of medicine is also a major issue when it comes to the treatment of patients with serious diseases. Research has provided evidence that survival rates among patients with head and neck cancer are significantly lower among individuals with low socioeconomic status (Choi et al., 2016). Such a disproportion, among other factors, may be caused by the fact that effective treatments and pharmaceuticals are often very expensive, and only wealthy patients can afford to pay for them.
It results in an unfair situation, where access to quality medical care becomes a privilege of the rich. The rest of the population, on the other hand, have to compromise between the effectiveness of treatments they receive and the cost. In the context of serious illnesses, this will lead to higher chances of irreversible damage to the person’s health and increased mortality among patients. To alleviate the consequences of the problem improvements in government regulations and subsidies might be required at both the federal and state level. Investments in the development of new cost-effective methods to fights disease are also needed to ensure that more people have access to modern medicine.
Next to unfair pricing, inefficient regulatory system and excessive bureaucracy are factors making a substantial contribution to the cost of medicine in the United States and, thus, its affordability for American people. Currently, the process of delivery of care to the patients in hospitals and other medical facilities is influenced by a necessity to comply with a variety of, often inadequate, regulations, and standards. Although government involvement in healthcare via control and supervision is necessary to guaranty the proper functioning, it needs to be implemented properly to avoid unnecessary complications.
Possible measures that can be taken at the federal and state level to improve the situation include aligning regulations across different government agencies and making policies more flexible to support all populations. Additionally, such a change will make the medical system as a whole, more adaptable, and open to innovation and modernization. Alleviation of the administrative burden that lies on medical institutions will make their work more cost-effective, leading to lower prices and making quality care more affordable. Moreover, regulatory relief will allow healthcare providers to focus on the health outcomes of patients and not paperwork.
All these factors impact the reputation of the medical system in the United States and create the environment, in which individuals from low socioeconomic status feel like they receive second-rate treatments. A study has shown that the perceived quality of health care among low-income patients is not as high compared to their wealthier counterparts (Arpey, Gaglioti, & Rosenbaum, 2017). Due to limited coverage, low socioeconomic status individuals receive fewer tests and have less access to modern treatments and medication. Moreover, these individuals often get less attention from doctors and other medical personnel.
As a result, such people have less trust in official medicine and, instead of asking for professional help, might turn to self-medication and potentially harmful alternative therapies. To alleviate this problem developing multifaceted approaches to the promotion of health equity and affordable, high-quality care is required. Changes need to be made by both care providers and the government regulatory entities to ensure success in this regard.
All the before-mentioned shortcomings and weaknesses inherent to the American medical system make the necessity of revision and reformation apparent to both the public and the government. Despite the seriousness of the situation, there are different measures that can be taken to improve it and initiate the process of new development. Possible approaches include reformation of medical liability system that would guarantee that patients have access to a full range of services and, at the same time, allow reducing the cost of health care. Reorganization of the current system by finding new ways to handle payments and delivery of treatments is another major step to the more affordable and effective medicine.
Such an approach would change the mechanism of work of American medical institutions at a fundamental level by creating new sources of funding. As providers of health care will move away from fee-for-service models to new, more innovative methods to handle payments for their services, medicine in the country will become more affordable. It would also reduce the likelihood of physicians providing unnecessary treatments and lead to decommodification of care, serving interests of both patients and medical personal.
Lack of affordability of quality care is a serious problem that might have multiple negative consequences for society. Stopping millions of people from using all the benefits of the technological progress in medicine, it creates an unfair situation, when proper healthcare is only available to the privileged. Apart from having a detrimental effect on health outcomes, such disparity leads to a bad reputation of the medical system in public and the growing dissatisfaction of people with the quality of life.
To change the situation, this problem needs to be taken seriously and addressed by both care providers and government entities. Reformation of the system and finding new innovative ways to approach liability and payment issues are necessary to make improvements. In addition to that, reducing the cost of healthcare by improving regulations and fighting unreasonable pricing together with the increasing availability of medical insurance of all citizens will be necessary to overcome the crisis.
Arpey, N. C., Gaglioti, A. H., & Rosenbaum, M. E. (2017). How socioeconomic status affects patient perceptions of health care: A qualitative study. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health, 8(3), 169-175.
Caldwell, J. T., Ford, C. L., Wallace, S. P., Wang, M. C., & Takahashi, L. M. (2016). Intersection of living in a rural versus urban area and race/ethnicity in explaining access to health care in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 106(8), 1463-1469.
Choi, S. H., Terrell, J. E., Fowler, K. E., McLean, S. A., Ghanem, T., Wolf, G. T., Duffy, S. A. (2016). Socioeconomic and other demographic disparities predicting survival among head and neck cancer patients. PloS One, 11(3), e0149886.
Goldstein, D. A., Clark, J., Tu, Y., Zhang, J., Fang, F., Goldstein, R., & Rosenbaum, E. (2017). A global comparison of the cost of patented cancer drugs in relation to global differences in wealth. Oncotarget, 8(42), 71548-71555.