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Reducing Complexities in the U.S. Healthcare System to Promote Health Equity

The United States, a country with a population of over 330 million, has a healthcare system known for its complexity, involving intricate relationships between providers, insurers and patients. For instance, the U.S. healthcare system is defined by its blend of public and private funding, absence of universal coverage and reliance on patient payments to finance healthcare services.


Individuals needing healthcare services often must navigate these complexities to receive proper treatment. This complexity negatively impacts health outcomes, leading to high medical spending, other expenses associated with information barriers and, ultimately, exacerbated health inequity. 


The U.S. healthcare system ranks first in global healthcare expenditure. However, high spending does not ensure the highest quality of healthcare. Compared to many other countries, public satisfaction with the U.S. healthcare system is relatively low. Factors contributing to this dissatisfaction include the need for patients to coordinate care across multiple providers and the difficulty in understanding information from providers. 


The lack of U.S. effort to address these barriers results in challenges for patients to receive effective, timely treatment despite the higher costs. Additionally, high medical costs usually mean that insurance coverage is crucial for affording necessary medical services. 


However, due to the complex relationships among different parties, acquiring the necessary information in order to get the best possible care can be challenging as well. Data suggests that about 6/10ths of insured individuals reported a problem using their health insurance in the past year. The situation worsens for those with poor health who need healthcare services more frequently. Consequently, these patients sometimes have to delay or forgo necessary treatment because they cannot afford it.


The complex landscape of U.S. healthcare, dominated by private players, poses challenges to both accessibility and affordability. Public-funded social programs like Medicaid, intended to promote healthcare accessibility and equity, also face challenges due to benefit enrollment procedures. Millions are now being disenrolled from Medicaid after eligibility redeterminations were paused during COVID-19. 


Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 77.9 million Americans, including children, pregnant women, parents, seniors and individuals with disabilities, who tend to be more vulnerable and, therefore, have more pressing healthcare needs. The program, designed to guarantee their needs are met, now risks pushing them towards losing access to adequate healthcare.


The complicated nature of the U.S. healthcare system means that an individual's health literacy greatly determines the quality and affordability of their healthcare. People with lower health system literacy are more likely to visit the emergency room for services, even when unnecessary, leading to higher costs. 


Those accessing healthcare services through government-funded programs face similar challenges. For example, people getting Affordable Care Act coverage through healthcare.gov have more than 100 plan options on average. The abundance of choices can overwhelm patients, leading to higher medical spending or poorer health outcomes.


The complexities of the U.S. healthcare system hinder the promotion of accessible, transparent healthcare delivery that can better guarantee positive patient experiences, especially for those from underrepresented communities with limited resources and pressing needs. 


These intricacies create barriers to accessing services and understanding benefits and protections, further affecting affordability and the quality of the delivery system. Promoting health equity should focus on streamlining the system to ease the process for individuals, particularly those in social programs or facing health challenges. This enables easier and more equitable access to treatment, care and benefits while ensuring they have the necessary resources.


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

1 comentário


Ella Song
Ella Song
22 de jun.

Great article! Your argument is well-supported, and makes it clear the dangers of our overly complex and difficult-to-navigate healthcare system, as it is a perpetuator of healthcare injustice.

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