ABSTRACT: This paper discusses one of the causes of increasing health care disparities as well as delving into one of the many ways of solving it. It focuses on the socio-economic factors that keep many from accessing health care. It then goes on to explaining one of the many ways of fixing this core cause would be breaking away from the capitalist market system.
INTRODUCTION: Health care disparities are the differences in access to health care services as experienced by different populations. According to Healthy People 2020 “Access to comprehensive, quality health care services is important for the achievement of health equity and for increasing the quality of a healthy life for everyone” As health care providers, it is our duty to make sure our services reach to all the people who require them. There is a big difference between the quality of health that can be provided and the quality of health care that majority of people have access to in the United States and the world. These disparities in access to health care are more evident between different socio-economic classes than any other measure of population. It is important to educate communities of all socio-economic classes of these real disparities so that they might become more aware of their respective situations and may try to work towards closing these disparities in access to a right that is necessary to maintain a humane standard of living. This research paper aims to make clear what are some of the causes of these disparities as well as provide some a few methods that can be used to tackle those causes and decrease the disparities that exist in accessing the quality of health care necessary to maintain a humane standard of living.
EVIDENCE: The disparities we are concerned with measure the differences in access to health care that exists amongst the lower socio-economic class as compared to the higher socio-economic class. A study by Alison A. Galbraith found that “Socioeconomic disparities exist in the financial burden of out of pocket health care expenditures for families with children”. Another study conducted by the Common Wealth Fund shows that the average Health Insurance premiums for family coverage are $13,871 in 2010, and are expected to go up even more by 2015. Moreover, the National Average Wage Index 2010 reports that the national average wage is $41,673.83. This means that if the average American was to buy health insurance for their family, they will only have $27,802.83 to spend on other needs over the course of the entire year. This assumption is not yet taking into account the 46.2 million Americans who live below the poverty line, as reported by the U.S census, and are unable to afford such premiums which guarantee access to quality health care. The U.S census also reports that the poverty rate of Americans have only risen to 15.1% in 2010 and have added on to increasing health care disparities.
CAUSES: I have found the root cause of these disparities to be the dependence on the capitalist model to solve the problems of health care. Through the creation of socioeconomic classes and then by deciding to base access to health care on one’s ability to pay for these services, the health care system gas doomed the lower socio-economic classes to never have access to health services. One only needs to look towards Cuba to understand how, despite a lower budget and constraints; they have been able to eradicate disparities in health care access while also maintaining a good quality of health care. Everyone in Cuba has access to the same quality of Health care as the next person, regardless of the socio-economic class they belong to. On top of it all, that quality of health care which is accessible to all is very highly maintained and cutting edge. On the contrary, even though the U.S has access to more resources and spends more on Health Care than Cuba, it is unable to cater to the needs of the lower socio-economic class while maintaining a very high level of health care provided to the high socio-economic class.
CONSEQUENCES: Health care disparities end up costing the U.S government millions of dollars and keep an entire population of people from raising their standard of living. It is the moral obligation of any health care professional to cater to the needs of all those who need them, to not to discriminate in providing their crucial services that are much needed by all members of society. Yet, the model of health care we are currently catering makes it impossible for health care professionals to fulfill their moral obligation as it alienates an entire population from their life-saving services.
SOLUTIONS: The solution to this problem of health care disparities lies in cutting the umbilical cord that ties the health care system to the capitalist model that is applied in other aspects of businesses and society. The evidence of this strategy lies in Cuba. Through the government funding constant research as well as health care providers and infrastructure, they are able to reduce health care disparities to nothing. Cuba is able to do so by allotting only 11.8% of their GDP towards health as reported by Trading Economics. The U.S also has the ability to adopt a similar system that will make sure it takes care of all those citizens who need proper health care.
OBSTACLES: The main barrier to decreasing these disparities is the system which endorses treatment of health care profession as capitalism based market system. These disparities have increased over time as the amount of people in the lower socio-economic class has risen and the insurance premiums have risen as well. What we are doing wrong is that we are not addressing the core problem that causes these disparities. Much of the research has focused on these disparities existing between different ethnic groups. For the past 30 years, our attention has been focused on eliminating racial prejudices that add on to these disparities. Our efforts have not been in vain, because the racial prejudices that did exist in providing health care have been eliminated to a large (but not complete) extent. Yet we still see these disparities in health care access existing, and growing each year. It goes to show that now; the problem does not lie in racial prejudices, but rather in socio-economic conditions of people directly involved in having access to health care. The socio-economic conditions keep many from seeking a health care professional and restrict them from accessing needed medical care.
DISCUSSION: Different points of view do exist to mine. Many suggest that the problem does not lie in the system which discriminates in accessing health care on socio-economic conditions. Yet from the evidence coming from Cuba, and many other first world nations where health care disparities are much lower, we find that they were able to reduce health care disparities significantly only after recognizing it as a socio-economic problem. Community organizations can contribute in reducing health care disparities by making sure their respective communities have access to health care through different means. Community organizations can arrange with different universities and health care clinics to hold free health fairs so that the members of their community who cannot afford proper health care still fulfill their basic health necessities.
LIMITATIONS: The major limitation in my research was the lack of research articles available that correlate health care disparities directly to socio-economic status of people. The majority of research papers dealt with comparison between different minority and ethnic communities and health care disparities.
CONCLUSION: The core factor that contributes to health care disparities is the system which creates and then dissipates health care based on socio-economic levels. This problem can be solved by detaching the health care system from such a system and basing it on the moral values that every health care professional abides by, those which bind the health care professional to help their fellow man in need.
1. Galbraith, A. (n.d.). Out-of-Pocket Financial Burden for Low-Income Families with Children: Socioeconomic Disparities and Effects of Insurance.Out-of-Pocket Financial Burden for Low-Income Families with Children: Socioeconomic Disparities and Effects of Insurance. Retrieved March 29, 2012, from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.ezproxy.xula.edu/pmc/articles/PMC1361224/
3. TradingEconomics.com., & Zealand, S. N. (n.d.). Health expenditure; total (% of GDP) in Cuba.TradingEconomics.com - Economic Data for 196 Countries. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/cuba/health-expenditure-total-percent-of-gdp-wb-data.html
4. Access to Health Services - Healthy People. (n.d.). Healthy People 2020 - Improving the Health of Americans. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=1
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6. About Poverty - Highlights - U.S Census Bureau. (n.d.). Census Bureau Homepage. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/index.html