In the United States of America, many Americans are left in an ill or dangerous health condition due to their inaccessibility to needed health services. The issues with healthcare access for Americans are due to factors such as: the cost, geographic issues, short doctor office hours, transportation difficulties, and limited education about healthcare facilities. In order to resolve the issue of inaccessible healthcare in America, these factors must be examined and reformed to better the health of millions of Americans.
The main contributing factor to the inaccessibility to healthcare in America is the cost. According to Bloom (2019), the average annual cost of health care for an American was $9,596 in 2012, then $10,345 in 2016. As a result of these high costs for healthcare, 16.3 percent of the American population lacked health insurance for the entire year in 2010 (Schneider, 2014, p. 465). Of the 16.3 percent of uninsured Americans, 80 percent live in families headed by workers who cannot afford insurance because of the high premiums (Schneider, 2014, p. 465). Sixteen percent of uninsured citizens is very bad for America, considering “a study published in 2009 found that people without health insurance had a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private insurance, leading to 45,000 deaths each year” (Schneider, 2014, p. 465). The second contributing factor to the inaccessibility to healthcare is geographic issues. Every American does not live within a city where doctors and hospitals are easily accessible. According to Heath (2018), “As many as 57 million Americans currently live in a rural area, according to the American Hospital Association. These individuals face a litany of challenges, ranging from where they live to having enough doctors to provide care.” “The patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas, according to statistics from the National Rural Health Association” (Heath, 2018). Geography puts many Americans living in rural areas at a disadvantage, because, unlike urban areas, there aren’t many doctors who provide care in rural areas. Another contributing factor to the inaccessibility to healthcare is limited doctor office hours. The normal doctor office is typically open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., however, there are many Americans who must work and are not available between those hours. The fourth contributing factor to the inaccessibility to healthcare is transportation. According to Heath, “Per AHA statistics, approximately 3.5 million patients go without care because they cannot access transportation to their providers” (2018). Not every American who needs medical attention has the ability or option to drive whether it be due to a disability or financial reasons, so unfortunately, they tend not to go see a doctor for proper health services. The last contributing factor to the inaccessibility to healthcare in America is limited education about healthcare facilities. According to Heath, “A February 2017 survey from CityMD showed that patients largely don’t know where they should receive care for various different symptoms. When presented with different scenarios…only 46 percent of respondents correctly selected urgent care as the appropriate choice for a scenario in which a child is presenting with 104-degree fever, shivering, and coughing” (2018). Limited education about healthcare facilities causes inaccessibility to healthcare, because if one is not educated on the functions of different healthcare facilities, they more than likely will not know where to go in the time of medical need.
An example of healthcare being inaccessible due to cost is a blue-collar worker who use to be medically insured through their employer, however, they are currently uninsured. Before monthly premiums for insurance began to rise the worker was insured through their employer. Unfortunately, for the employer, the monthly premiums began rising in proportion to wages, and it became too expensive to provide health insurance for employees and their families. As a result of expensive premiums, the employer cut back their coverage which required the employee to pay a larger share of the premiums, higher deductibles, and higher copayments. Therefore, the blue-collar worker is no longer insured, because they could not afford higher payments for insurance. An example of healthcare being inaccessible due to geography is an elderly woman who lives in a rural area, and she is due for a blood test. However, there has been a recent shortage of clinics within her area and the nearest health care provider is located forty-five minutes away in the city. The elderly woman does not feel comfortable driving such a long distance, so she decides not to go see a doctor because it is too long of a trip. An example of healthcare being inaccessible to due to limited doctor hours is a single mother with two kids who works full time. The mother and her two kids may be in need for their routine physical exam, however, the doctor in the area is only open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Unfortunately, the mother cannot schedule a time to be examined, because she works 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and she cannot afford to miss work. Due to the mother’s long work schedule and the doctor’s limited hours, her two kids and herself never go to get a routine physical exam. An example of healthcare being inaccessible due to transportation difficulties is a woman suffering from a flare up of severe arthritis, and she needs her medication. The woman lives alone, and she cannot drive due to her arthritis, therefore, she has no way of retrieving medication to treat her condition. Lastly, an example of healthcare being inaccessible due to limited education on healthcare facilities is a parent whose child has had abdominal cramping, a reduced appetite, and feeling fatigued for a week. Instead of taking the child to the emergency care, the parent decided to take the child to a pharmacy clinic. After the clinic recommends for the child to be taken to a hospital, the hospital informs the parent that the child has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. In this situation, had the parent been educated enough about healthcare facilities, they would’ve known to take their child to the hospital instead of a clinic.
Accessibility to healthcare is very important, because it impacts the health of millions of Americans. If millions of Americans cannot access healthcare services, then the health of the country decreases as the mortality rate increases; the challenges that many Americans face when accessing healthcare should be addressed to be reformed. Fortunately, of the issues already discussed there have been efforts made to correct them. To help patients become educated on which type of ailments can be treated at a healthcare facility, “clinician offices and hospitals can display this information in their own facilities and offer patient education materials” (Heath, 2018). In instances where patients cannot reach a doctor due to the limited hours available, “some organizations are utilizing health IT and connected health to allow patients to seek medical advice without needing to come into the office” (Health, 2018). Some health organizations are using a program called Telehealth, which “allows a patient to receive medical treatment without being beholden to an office schedule that does not fit the patient’s needs” (Heath, 2018). Other than using health IT programs, some health facilities have changed their hours of operation to better fit the needs of their patients. In efforts to reform the issues of healthcare inaccessibility due to geographic issues, some healthcare facilities have begun using telemedicine which “allows patients to use their own computers or smartphones to video call with a provider…keeping patients from having to travel great distances to receive intensive or specialized care” (Heath, 2018). Lastly, to overcome transportation barriers that challenge access to healthcare “rideshare giants Uber and Lyft announced plans to close care gaps arising from medical transportation woes” (Heath, 2018). Patients can benefit from healthcare facilities partnering with companies like Uber and Lyft, because they will always have a way of transportation for medical reasons.
In conclusion, many Americans face challenges that restrict them from accessing healthcare services. The common challenges that cause inaccessibility to healthcare are the cost, geographic issues, limited doctor office hours, transportation difficulties, and limited education about healthcare facilities. If these problems are not brought to the attention of our country’s healthcare providers, then there will not be any reform to our country’s healthcare access. If there is no change done to allow better access to healthcare, it will result in more Americans having deteriorating health conditions and illnesses. Fortunately, there has been efforts made to reform challenges such as geographic issues, limited doctor office hours, transportation difficulties, and limited education about healthcare facilities. Many healthcare organizations have begun to expand their health IT programs, and partner with rideshare companies to give more Americans easier access to healthcare. Health IT programs, such as Telehealth and Telemedicine, allow patients to access healthcare services via electronic device at any time of the day. Rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have partnered with health organizations to offer patients a reliable way of transportation to receive health services. Healthcare access should not be taken lightly, because the easier patients can access health services, then the easier it is to prevent diseases and promote better health.
- Clark, J. (2014). Do the solutions for global health lie in healthcare? BMJ: British Medical Journal, 349. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/26517292
- Hooper, C. (2008). Adding Insult to Injury: The Healthcare Brain Drain. Journal of Medical Ethics, 34(9), 684-687. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27720175
- Heath, S. (2018, June 28). Top Challenges Impacting Patient Access to Healthcare. Retrieved from https://patientengagementhit.com/news/top-challenges-impacting-patient-access-to-healthcare
- Lack of Health Care is a Waste of Human Capital: 5 Ways to Achieve Universal Health Coverage By 2030. (2018, December 7). Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/immersive-story/2018/12/07/lack-of-health-care-is-a-waste-of-human-capital-5-ways-to-achieve-universal-health-coverage-by-2030
- Schneider, M.-J. (2014). Introduction to public health. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
- Bloom, E. (2019, October 14). Here's how much the average American spends on health care. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/23/heres-how-much-the-average-american-spends-on-health-care.html
- Chokshi, D., & Kesselheim, A. (2008). Rethinking Global Access to Vaccines. BMJ: BritishMedical Journal, 336(7647), 750-753. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20509392
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