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The State of American Healthcare

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Almost everyone agrees that physical well being should be a top priority no matter what. That isn’t surprising. The controversy often begins only when financing medical intervention is necessary. Most of us are already at a major disadvantage because America has an exceedingly pricey healthcare system. Sarah Kliff and Soo Oh at Vox publicized as much last year. They visualized several cost comparisons between the US and other developed nations. The data is sobering. With the exception of colonoscopies and CT scans, Americans paid more, on average, for standard procedures than did any of their counterparts elsewhere.

The authoring duo clearly emphasized how our domestic policies are in large part to blame. “Most other countries have some central body that negotiates prices with hospitals and drug manufacturers,” they explained. “The US doesn’t have that type of agency.” We instead rely on fragmented insurance companies to negotiate prices independently with hospitals, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry. It should stand to reason that those players and institutions are working in our best interests yet the evidence suggests otherwise.

Journalists aren’t the only ones revealing a dire need for policy reform. Institutions world renowned for breakthrough research have gotten involved, too. For instance, Karen Feldscher at The Harvard Gazette promoted a joint study conducted by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Economics. According to the researchers, “the study confirmed that the US has substantially higher spending, worse population health outcomes, and worse access to care than other wealthy countries.” They identified the main culprits as excessive administrative costs, absurd average salaries, and the per capita spending on pharmaceutical drugs.

Don’t forget that the GOP remains hellbent on dismantling as much of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as possible. It’s hard to fathom how or why any politician could justify an initiative that denies people access to affordable healthcare while simultaneously letting insurers apply questionable discretion over coverage. Some states are fortunately fighting back while their counterparts elsewhere play right along. That means adequate healthcare coverage is now often dependent on where we live.

Nisarg Patel at Slate openly despaired over that exact phenomenon last summer. “As blue states are building their own path towards universal coverage,” wrote Nisarg. “Red states have remained on course with the Trump administration, imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients and deregulated insurance markets.” Countless Americans have, as a result, now found themselves dangerously underinsured or tragically uninsured. Either way, there is still almost no escaping the medical industrial complex. Successfully navigating the healthcare system is itself a cumbersome undertaking despite the urgency required for numerous medical conditions and/or disorders.

The elderly are regularly the victim of our complicated healthcare system. Many sometimes struggle with cognitive functions essential to the due diligence and decision-making process. Add into the mix the fact that things like Medicare Annual Enrollment and Medicaid reimbursements are frequently time-sensitive. Access to reliable public resources has certainly never been better, but utilizing them inherently presupposes sufficient health literacy and cognitive function–neither of which is guaranteed.

The above dilemma hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially when it comes to the first factor. Scholars at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Center on Society and Health declared education necessary for improving healthcare outcomes. According to them, “healthcare has a bigger impact for people with limited education than for those with more education.” Most of us focus exclusively on medical interventions when the data indicates that they only account for about 20% of outcomes. Contrast that with higher education, which has a disproportionate influence on long-term health outcomes plus a wide array of other benefits.

Suffice it to say that preserving our health and well being isn’t as easy as it ought to be. Overcoming obstacles is the reality for many Americans regardless of lifestyle. Defying the status quo is the only way to ensure the future is different.

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