Healthcare in the U.S.: A Flawed System

I remember when I was in elementary school, I had a babysitter who I absolutely loved. Both my parents worked, so after school, she would pick my brother and me up, drive us home, and spend almost the rest of our day with us. She cared for us like we were her own kids, dedicating so much time and effort just for us. I was so appreciative of her, even as a fourth grader. What I didn’t understand at the time is that she was going through problems of her own. Before leaving each day, she would rant to my parents about how she could not afford healthcare not only for herself, but also for her newborn baby. My parents both work in healthcare, so they tried their best to help her in any way they could. I never knew the direness of this situation, but it’s been weighing on me recently. People in the United States of America, specifically those who are not as affluent, are disproportionately affected in terms of their access to basic healthcare and living. Bias also shines through healthcare, in the way that identity also plays into the level of care received.
According to KFF, around half of U.S. adults have difficulty paying health care costs, and by extension these adults delay or do not get medical care due to cost. The fact that many are willing to go without proper help is concerning, and it indicates the need to make basic healthcare more accessible to the public. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the average citizen in the U.S. spends more on healthcare per person than in any other country, averaging 12,555 dollars in 2022. The struggle of paying the high costs for healthcare weighs most heavily upon lower income communities. People who live in poverty are usually also already associated with shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates, and higher death rates. Poverty already sets up the environment for these health outcomes, and with no healthcare easily accessible there’s no way to be treated due to cost. Cost is the main barrier that needs to be overcome when it comes to accessibility of resources and, in turn, minority groups are disproportionately affected.
In addition to these high costs, large disparities and gaps still exist in the system in turn based on identity due to a long history and current bias. One major example of this disparity presently is the fact that Black women are three or four times more likely to die of pregnancy than white women. The reason for this is rooted in health care segregation in the past, where Black families were banned from well-funded hospitals in the late 1900s, meaning Black women never got the same support during pregnancy as white women, among other problems. This has still carried on to today. Additionally, some health caregivers also incorrectly perceive Black people to have biological differences from white people, making them stronger, which has scientifically been proven wrong . Because of this, there tends to be less pain relief for Black people because healthcare givers rate their pain lower.
Along with the unequal treatment of patients, there are simply flaws in the system across the country. This summer I got the opportunity to volunteer at a hospital. I worked at the front desk, mostly giving directions and pushing people in wheelchairs, but every so often there were special cases. For instance, one man with Parkinson’s disease was discharged with no transportation and absolutely no place to go. Helping this man, among others, was an experience that opened my eyes to the amount of effort and work that needs to go into reforming the current U.S. healthcare system, along with problems involving cost and identity. When we are at school, all of us are fortunate enough to have access to the resource that is the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center. Whether we need simply a box of tissues, Albuterol, or a place to stay when feeling sick, we have amazing on-campus healthcare. Students all receive the same quality of care, regardless of their identity. While it may seem simple, not everyone can say the same. By realizing this prerogative, we can take a step towards advocating for the same throughout the U.S.
Healthcare is a complex issue. It’s not something that can be easily affected, just because of the amount of people it serves. I can’t write this article without acknowledging the fact that innovation is constantly occurring, and surely there is positive data and feedback about healthcare in the U.S. as well. We have amazing healthcare workers and hospitals, but it’s hard for everyone to get access to these resources. Primarily, changes need to take place with the dire price of healthcare in the U.S.. The U.S. spends twice as much per person on health than peer countries, but despite spending exponentially more, the U.S.’s health outcomes do not prove to be any better. In fact, our country performs much worse in certain health metrics, such as life expectancy at birth, safety during childbirth, and unmanaged diabetes. Healthcare in the U.S. is unpredictable, varying depending on background and identity. This is truly the reason for many deaths in America, and it cannot go on.