Socioeconomic Status and Health Care Access


Health care is one of the most important institutions that provide health care services to people. Unfortunately, it seems that access to health care is not equal for all people, and multiple factors have contributed to such differences, but the most relevant factor is the financial status which includes health insurance, occupation, and place of residence.

Unemployed People Problems with Healthcare Access

Due to growing unemployment, there is a strong possibility that more and more people will not be able to afford proper health care. Since unemployed people cannot afford health insurance, they often postpone going to the doctor. Indeed, the correlation between unemployed people who report difficulties with access to health care is almost twice the percentage of the employed (Economou et al.103). Thus, in countries where unemployment is high a lot of people will not be able to access health care. Besides, an early visit to the doctor can sometimes be a matter of life and death, and postponing the visit may lead to tragic results.

Access Problems among Migrants and Refugees

Quite often the poorest people in the country are migrants and refugees, so these people may also face cultural or linguistic barriers, apart from financial difficulties. However, language or cultural barriers alone do not explain the disparities in health care access (Schneider et al. p. 3).

According to Wagner, when Southeast Asian refugees in Connecticut were asked how often they delayed going to see their health care provider because it cost too much, the majority responded “more than once” (p. 4).

Moreover, delayed access to medical care may cause serious health problems; in that case, the patient will have to use inpatient or emergency health services which are often a lot more expensive than primary and secondary care.

Therefore, the unmet medical need is caused by financial barriers. Indeed, this factor is viewed as more hindering than the linguistic or cultural barrier (Schneider et al. p. 3).

Relation of Place of Residence and Access to Treatment

Some people may see the problem of access to treatment and health care in the place of residence. For most countries, it is generally agreed that rural hospitals are much worse than urban. It appears that for inpatient treatment, urban residents mostly use hospitals that are located in big cities, whereas rural residents mostly use local hospitals. Insurance plays an important role when it comes to healthcare usage. People who have money and therefore can afford health insurance are able to stay longer in hospitals.

Besides, urban residents have higher incomes; the per capita income of rural residents is much smaller in comparison to the per capita income of urban residents (Jiang et al. p. 3).

Jiang writes: “Another significant factor is per capita income. Because grade III hospitals provide a higher quality of care, getting treated in such hospitals can be more expensive, even after adjusting for insurance payment. The higher income of urban residents and higher cost of grade III hospitals can partly explain the observed positive associations for per capita income and area”(p. 3).

In conclusion, access to treatment and healthcare is not the same for all, and many factors have contributed to such differences. Estimating access to healthcare is a complicated problem. Relevant factors include demographic characteristics such as education, occupation, and place of residence. However, financial barriers are regarded as the most inhibiting factor.

Works Cited

  1. Economou, Charalampos, et al. “Impacts of the Economic Crisis on Access to Healthcare Services in Greece with a Focus on the Vulnerable Groups of the Population.” Social Cohesion and Development, vol. 9, no. 2, 2016, pp. 1-5. National Documentation Centre, doi:10.12681/scad.8880.
  2. Jiang, Yan, et al. “Access to Healthcare and Medical Expenditure for the Middle-Aged and Elderly: Observations from China.” Plos ONE, vol. 8, no. 5, 2013, p. e64589. Public Library Of Science (Plos), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064589.
  3. Schneider, Christine, et al. “Disparities in Health and Access to Healthcare between Asylum Seekers and Residents in Germany: A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Feasibility Study.” BMJ Open, vol. 5, no. 11, 2015, p. e008784. BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008784.
  4. Wagner, Julie et al. “Trauma, Healthcare Access, and Health Outcomes Among Southeast Asian Refugees in Connecticut.” Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, vol. 15, no. 6, 2012, pp. 1065-1072. Springer Nature, doi:10.1007/s10903-012-9715-2.