Social Problems of Health and Health Care

Abstract

The article is aimed to provide a personal perspective regarding the current problems that are affecting the US healthcare system. The author highlights three main areas in the current US healthcare setup as the reasons for the decline. The first is the lack of direction in the allocation of the resources in the medical setup. The second is the lack of policies that are able to bridge the divide between the rich and the poor and the reduction of the number of uninsured people. The third is the lack of interest that is shown by the US government in rectifying the problems of the health care system. Without addressing these issues, there is not much hope for improvement in the health care system of the US.

Perspective: Problems of Health Care

Gaining a perspective of US health care is a very difficult task due to a wide variety of issues that are taking place. There are policy issues, the economic burden of health care and the related funding issues, various social problems such as alcoholism, preventive and treatment services, and various mental health services to name a few. The US health care is a myriad of issues that continue to increase with time due to past errors of policymaking and the consequent failure to keep up with the changing demands of the health care system. (Kornblum and Julian, 2007).

These changes are not exclusive to the health care setup but include its social implications. Currently, a large proportion of the American population is unable to access medical care as it cannot afford to have medical insurance. This chasm between the rich and poor is continuing to increase, which means that as time progresses, the US health care system will become a luxury only enjoyed by the rich, and not the necessity that every US citizen has a right to (Kornblum and Julian, 2007).

This class conflict as explained by Marx is already leading to many disparities, and the US citizens are now divided into those who can or cannot afford medical health, classified into different races and socioeconomic statuses, and those who do not get sufficient medical help such as the mental illness people (Koop, 2007).

The lack of understanding of the severity of the issue and the consequent burden that the health care is suffering from in one way or the other is a strong indication of a need for better planning and policy decision. The only significant person who actually took up the matter of health disparities in recent years and put it as a priority in the state agenda was Bill Clinton, but even he was not able to handle the complexity of the issues of medical care provision. With his failure has come to a trend where presidential candidates are reluctant to address this issue head-on, and therefore, this issue remains still today and gets complicated with time (Krugman and Wells, 2006).

From the author’s perspective, there are three issues that are affecting the current health care system of the US. The first is the lack of direction in the allocation of the resources in the medical setup. The second is the lack of policies that are able to bridge the divide between the rich and the poor and the reduction of the number of uninsured people. The third is the lack of interest that is shown by the US government in rectifying the problems of the health care system.

From a social perspective, these three problems are not difficult to understand and how these affect society in general. The improper division and allocation of funds have led to the US health care system are becoming the largest spender on healthcare, however, does not even place it in the list of best healthcare systems in the world (Koop, 2007). The lack of allocation in different areas of the country has led to certain cities and states enjoying the best of health care facilities, whereas in others a lack of even basic healthcare. This marks that the rich people are able to afford the best in medical practice in the US, while the poor communities are unable to afford their medical insurance.

The class divide is also being emphasized due to the ignorance towards the ethnic minorities. The third, which is the lack of US government interest in this area, is clearly reflective of the poor allocation of funds, small-term rectifications of the various problems that have continued to rise in the health care, and the continuous degeneration of the system despite high allocations. The lack of a plan for leading the health care into the future and adapting it according to the needs of the future is throwing health care off balance, and pundits predict very serious consequences should this take place (Koop, 2007).

The ethnic communities stand to suffer the most due to other social problems that they face in the US. Homelessness and poverty are more common among ethnic communities. With discrimination in various sectors of life, the health care sector is no exception. There are currently more non-white people who are out of medical insurance, and consequently, shorter life expectancies, infant mortality rates, and morbidities are higher as compared to their white counterparts (Human Rights Record of the United States in 2005, 2006).

The quality of health in children and women is also declining, which is evident by the lack of medical insurance for about 29 percent of the children in the last year (Human Rights Record of the United States in 2005, 2006).

The reduction of the number of insured people in the US regarding health is a very disappointing situation for a country that has one of the best health care services in the world. On the whole, the citizens of the US get their medical insurance via their employers and their companies, which covers a very large part of the population. However, complications arise for those who do not get such coverage from their employers (Tooker, 2003). The acquisition of insurance in health is a primary need for patients who are otherwise unable to receive any services via paid methods. The increasing numbers of people without health insurance will affect the medical setup by introducing patients to situations when the diseases may have advanced to very complicated scenarios, which may mean more costs in treating the conditions than when the patient would have presented in earlier stages (Tooker, 2003).

It is therefore the need of the current health care systems to improve the insurance provision systems by giving the people more options in their choice of health care. The patients should also have more choices in the decision-making regarding the care provider they want to be treated. There are many suggestions put forward about creating a system that contains only one type of insurance system. (Tooker, 2003). However, looking at the magnanimity of the change, it is more prudent to devise ways to improve the current health care system. The incorporation of various other social services and care plans and creating partnerships with them can be a very good way to help health care systems improve. However, the first and foremost requirement is the assurance that all have access to the healthcare system of the US, with or without the insurance (Tooker, 2003). Proper access provision to the public can be achieved through various community centers etc.

There are many reports that show that American poverty has risen in the past few years, which may explain the negative trend in healthcare and basic services in the US. The reports now show an increase in the rich and poor divide, and there has been a steady increase in the poverty levels. Homelessness is also increasing. In 2004, for example, the number of people who went out of insurance was 45.8 million people, and the annual death rate among Americans due to lack of medical insurance has risen to 18, 000 (Human Rights Record of the United States in 2005).

There have been many theories proposed to understand why the health care sector’s economic perspectives are different from the perspectives of other business sectors. The health care sector is unique due to the type of service that is provided and the liabilities that are very personal and yet very important for any health care institute to run properly (Eggleston, 2005). Insurance plans in many ways have complicated the economic implications of the whole system due to their preferences over the selection of patients who would receive care. To prevent costs, the healthcare systems try to give medical help to those who have preventable or the least costly medical condition.

This leaves behind the people who are in actual need of the care, such as cancer or terminally ill patients (Eggleston, 2005). As such there are no methodologies made for such patients, who in the end may suffer from their life due to inadequate policies, lack of approval for various medical procedures, and inability to receive medical care due to denial from the various insurance providers. So, therefore, now there are two groups of patients in the United States.

There are those patients who are denied care even for the most advanced diseases, and there are those who are rich enough to afford the most expensive of the procedures, which may not necessarily be needed for each case. The two sides of extreme availability versus non-availability are perhaps the biggest social divide that the typical Americana citizen may face every day (Eggleston, 2005).

In this regard, some of the theorists claim that invoking competition among the various insurance providers will be the answer to providing improved quality care to the patients. This is not true, as competition would usually incur in the companies they desire to handle more patients who may have minor problems, instead of providing quality care and giving the insurance as deemed necessary for the patient’s condition (Eggleston, 2005).

However, this model is also among the many that are projected to improve outcomes of health care, although this seems to be a highly challenging probability. Without the implementation of the health care policies that are inclusive of all with or without insurance, or the creation of policies that enable medical insurance to all, there is not much hope that there will be any considerable achievements in the area (Eggleston, 2005).

The biggest complication in the creation of a good policy for health by the government may lie in the lack of relationship assessment between the two things (Ruger, 2005). Both of these systems are a very complex array of policies and influencing factors, and therefore, finding out to which factors are actual influencers in the decision-making is very difficult to assume. The current health care system of the US, however, has become much dictated and influenced by the political changes that have taken place in the US government, and this is primarily due to the various policies that are leading the health care system.

How much is the health sector involved in creating these decisions regarding policies is not very clear, due to lack of research in this area (Ruger, 2005). The policies in health care are not similar to those created for various other business entities, and this is a fact that in most cases is ignored or misunderstood in government policymaking. With a lack of understanding of the key factors that distinguish the medical health care system from the other enterprises, there is not much hope for a policy that is unique to the needs of the system and maybe more aligned with the business aspects of healthcare.

This is the prime reason that although the input with regards to money in health has been very good, there is no direction as to how to distribute it. Only health care professionals and experts can identify which areas are in need of more investment than the others, and only they can create better strategies for the making of better policies. Until this is not resolved, the issue of poor policymaking and decision-making will continue (Ruger, 2005).

The healthcare of the people should not be taken as an obligation but as an integral right of every American of the country, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Perspectives and Conclusions

The US health care system suffers from the fundamental lack of proper policy and decision-making in the area. The government has been unable to create a system of health care that can provide care to all of the citizens of the United States. What is now present is a healthcare system with no proper guidelines about how it should be run, and no proper allocation of resources, leading to loss of important resources.

The improper planning throughout the years has led to a poor ranking of the American health care system, despite it spending the largest amount of money on healthcare. The lack of initiative on all levels of government, the inability to integrate various components of the social services into the healthcare system, and the inability to identify the continuous decline thereof of health care are the three main issues that are leading to the rapid decline of the US health care (Davis et al, 2003).

There are no significant efforts visible about learning about the needs of the health care system and how it differs from other policy-making decisions. The federal government has shown a disinterest in creating proper policies for healthcare. The federal-state collaboration is simply not present so that some states are enjoying some of the best healthcare services, while the others are suffering from the lack of basic ones. The insurance companies are now the primary runners of the healthcare systems, and there is no influence of the patients or the doctors in the matter, which constitutes the basic healthcare setup. Improper policy-making and lack of initiative on part of the government are the key problems in the creation of such a complicated yet ineffective US healthcare system. (Davis et al, 2003).

But the most important aspect of the health care policy is the social injustice that it portrays due to its inadequacies. With the rising numbers of American uninsured people, medicine is now a luxury not attainable by all. This is a fundamental negation of the basic rights that are claimed to be provided by the USA to all of its citizens. The increase in the poverty and homelessness levels is not isolated from the current healthcare picture, as all represent the various aspects of the same society. if society as a whole is declining, then all of its aspects are affected. And the biggest contributor to the decline of society is the rich-poor divide (Davis et al, 2003).

This shift has been remarkably fast in recent years, where the increase in poverty in the US is changing year by year. As such there are no signs that this trend will go away, meaning that more people will become homeless, more will be unemployed, and more will be out of medical insurance. Self-experiences of denial of healthcare provision to those in actual need and unimportant provision to others is a sad joke of healthcare today. Even basic care is now being denied, and now age or gender is no more a factor in it. With rising costs of healthcare and the inefficient method of allocation, there is no more hope that things will return to normal unless any fundamental steps are taken regarding the improvement of healthcare (Davis et al, 2003).

Healthcare provision is, therefore, a social issue for the American government that requires addressing immediately. The repercussions of the failure of the medical system of the US are very high and without any proper direction, this process will only speed up with time.

References

Eggleston Karen, 2005. Economic Modeling of Methods to Stimulate Quality Improvement. International Journal for Quality in Health Care Vol 17, No. 6, pp. 521-531.

The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2005. Report from the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.

Krugman Paul and Robin Wells, 2006. The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It. The New York Review of Books. Vol. 53: No. 5.

Koop C Everett, 2007. Health and Health Care for the 21st Century: For All the People. The Oncologist Vol 12, No.4, 366-369.

Kornblum William and Joseph Julian, 2007. Social Problems. 12th Edition. Publisher Prentice Hall.

Ruger J P, 2005. Democracy and Health. QJM 2005 98(4): 299-304.