The United States healthcare system is characterized by several elements that differentiate it from the healthcare systems of other nations such as its neighboring Canada. Two characteristics of the US healthcare system include a multiple-payer system and insurance-based access (Uretsky, 2007). These characteristics are believed to be the reason why healthcare in the US is extremely expensive and inaccessible to all Americans. The multiple-payer and the insurance-based access characteristics affect not only the availability of health education services in the US but also the health behavior of the population.
Effect of the healthcare system on availability of health education services
Health education services include a wide array of services that aim to sensitize the general public on health-related issues. The availability of such services is dependent to a great extent on the characteristics of a country’s healthcare system. In the United States, the payment of healthcare services by multiple partners implies that the government is not solely responsible for the health of its people. Instead, the government is only concerned with the groups of populations that it cares for such as the elderly and children (Uretsky, 2007). Hence, health education services provided by the government are likely to be aimed at these groups.
On the other hand, insurance companies also provide health coverage for individuals who can afford to pay for coverage. Because of the high costs of private health insurance, the poor and most rural communities cannot afford it. As a result, the majority of the insurance companies are concentrated in urban and affluent communities where their clients are located. This trend has a profound implication for health education services. It implies that most health education services are offered in urban and affluent communities as opposed to rural and low-income communities. Third, employers are the third partners involved in the provision of healthcare to Americans, besides the government and private insurance companies (Uretsky, 2007).
Because of the high costs involved in the provision of healthcare coverage for their employees, employers are forced to provide health education services to their employees so that they can take good care of their health and minimize the costs involved in treating illnesses. Hence, individuals who are unemployed lack access to health education services.
Effect of the healthcare system on health behavior of the population
The health behavior of individuals refers to the actions that individuals take to maintain optimal health. These actions range from the kinds of food they eat, engagement in exercises, and the type and frequency with which they seek medical attention (Everett and Anthony, 2005). The costs involved and inaccessibility of healthcare services in the US imply that only those who can afford insurance can pursue healthy lifestyle choices. For instance, people should go for regular medical check-ups to detect any developing illness at its early stage.
Unfortunately, low-income people cannot afford regular medical examinations, and therefore most often than not they seek medical intervention when their diseases are at an advanced stage and difficult to treat. Besides the health insurance provided by private companies, the government also pays for the health services of certain population groups such as the elderly and children. Even so, the eligibility criteria used to enroll the qualified individuals into these programs are usually stringent and many deserving individuals are left out of the programs (Theodore, 2000). This means that certain groups of the population have greater access to healthcare services than others. As a result, thousands of Americans are unable to live healthy lives.
Everett, M. D., and Anthony, M. S. (2005). Healthcare costs and benefits: a future direction for financial planning research. Journal of Personal Finance, 4(4), 69-85.
Theodore, M. (2000). The politics of Medicare (2nd ed.). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Uretsky, S. D. (2007). Health Care in the United States. Web.