Ground Zero: The Disparity of Health Insurance

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 15.7% of the U.S. population does not have health insurance. To put this number in perspective, 15.7% of the U.S. population is equal to the entire population of California and half the population of Texas combined. The difficulty in acquiring health insurance further increases this gap in health care. Minorities have a higher mortality rate when it comes to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer…to name a few. With such lethality that these and other conditions encompass, it is important to improve access to health care in the minority community and work toward trimming down health disparities.  19.5% of African Americans and one third of Hispanic populations are uninsured (US Dept. of Health & Human Services). A higher rate of uninsured individuals goes hand-in-hand with more expensive medical expenditures when emergency situations do arise (Hmm…can some hospitalizations be prevented by way of improved access to quality care in the first place?)

Furthermore, insurance costs have a snowball effect. When bills are not paid, insurance companies increase their premiums. As a result, insurance is pushed even further out of reach for families who are barely keeping up with insurance costs as it is and for those who are already uninsured. If one does not have insurance, the number of times they go to a physician for general well-care checkups is often going to be decreased. These visits are important because they can employ preventative medicine and provide access to treatment to control conditions which patients have. Think about it, if someone has poor control over their condition, it is extremely possible that the presentations will be even more drastic because problem after problem has accumulated. So, they are likely to present in an even sicker state once they finally get to a doctor’s office or ER. In turn, their health care will be even more expensive.

There are some measures which the U.S. has taken in order to help condense health disparities. The Accountable Care Act passed in 2010 aims to improve the healthcare system in the US. Accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes which comprise coordinated care and more affordable access to quality health care have been established. It is also important for health care providers to become culturally competent about the minority community in order to improve physician-patient communication. With Hispanic and African Americans making up such a large portion of the uninsured, it is vital that a multi-faceted approach be taken in order to alleviate the inequality in the healthcare system.

Original article – Tour for Diversity in Medicine – March 24, 2013

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Filed Under: FeaturedGeneralLifestylesMarginalized Populations in HealthcarePolitics and HealthSpecialty Corner

About the Author: publications@snma.org

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