Although the US is one of the countries that have profuse resources and superior technology, it still lags behind when compared to other developed countries on issues pertaining to health provision. The crevice that persists between the wealthy and the underprivileged people, the insured and uninsured Americans, bucolic and municipal residents, and ethnic disparities has hampered access to various health services. Americans spend heavily when it comes to health care and other basic needs. Many US citizens find it hard to cope with the expenses. Thus, they fail to get proper health care to the extent of endangering their health. Hence, the issue of accessibility of health care is critical in the US since many citizens are struggling with avertable diseases and complications that lead to premature death such as cancer and obesity mainly because they cannot access good health care services. The American medical care rates and insurance premiums keep on rising due to cost-shifting issues. As the paper reveals, although the federal, state, and local authorities have developed several policies to ensure that the public has access to good health care, most of these policies have failed. The paper confirms the urgent need to review the existing policies and/or develop new ones that address the issue of health care accessibility thoroughly.
Background of Access to Health Care
Failure to access good health care makes individuals susceptible to several ailments. In cooperation with the relevant stakeholders, the government has the duty to ensure that it provides a system through which citizens can always have affordable health care without obscurity. Health insurance has been an effective mechanism that people can easily access affordable medical care. Most individuals seek private health insurance programs. While the US government covers some of its citizens, others remain uninsured. According to Shi and Singh (2011), the population of uninsured people has grown over the years mainly because employers are withdrawing health insurance benefits from their workers due to the tough economy.
Health insurance provides an easy way of accessing health. However, health insurance coverage is not among the main priorities for Americans because of the high cost of insurance. The growing cost of medical care is not only affecting employer-sponsored insurance programs, which form the core of private sector, but also the public health insurance programs. Few employees who have low salaries have employer-sponsored insurance covers. Only a small number of them can comfortably pay the premiums. Furthermore, employment is gradually moving from industries (that are more willing to offer employee insurance benefits) to service jobs, which barely offer insurance covers to their employees. The nature of the contemporary jobs has created loopholes through which companies can fail to offer health insurance plans to their employees without being reprimanded (Patel & Rushefsky, 2014).
Under President Obama’s administration, the federal government has introduced the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as the ObamaCare, to transform the health sector. The Act seeks to make health care accessible and affordable to every American citizen. It enhances the quality of health services while at the same time monitoring how health insurance companies offer their services. By assenting to the Act, the US government has enabled uninsured Americans to get medical insurance covers. Indeed, the number of Americans who remain uninsured has dwindled over years, with the figures reducing from 15 percent to about 12 percent in 2014 (Frese, Eicher, & Hitt, 2014). Only about 42 million Americans are currently not insured going to recent statistics (Frese et al., 2014).
However, ObamaCare has come with several disadvantages. For instance, the Act requires employers to offer health insurance benefits to their workers, depending on the size of their workforce. Many businesses are reluctant to insure their workers or pay the penalties. As a result, they are only willing to employ workers who have private health insurance plans. This observation implies that a number of Americans will still have to opt for expensive private health insurance coverage or risk losing their jobs (Emanuel, 2014).
While progress has been made towards increasing access to healthcare services by ensuring that every American is insured, the huge population that is still uninsured implies a big risk. Observers such as Emanuel (2014) reveal how uninsured adults who struggle with chronic ailments such as acute ischemic stroke, cancer, and cardiac ailments receive poor services as compared to the insured people. Furthermore, lack of insurance cover also increases the cost of health services as people strive to treat diseases at advanced stages due to lack of good access to health care. ObamaCare has also been backed by several policies within the state and local government in an attempt to improve access to health care. Nonetheless, despite the efforts, most industrious nations still perform better when it comes to affordable health care access, thus reiterating the need to review and develop better health care access policies.
Review of Access to Healthcare Policies
Although different levels of government have initiated various programs to improve access to health care, most of them may fail if stakeholders fail to understand the definite meaning of access to medication. It is important for every developed policy to consider various components of access to health care as enlisted below:
Elements of a Good Accessible Healthcare System
- Care should be accessible. Individuals should receive apt diagnoses, medication, and where relevant, be given preventive medication to avert preventable ailments. Health centers should be within a proximate distance.
- Care should be suitable. The right physicians who are not hampered by any barriers such as intellectual and language differences should set the health system in a manner that patients are attended to.
- Care should be affordable. It is important to ensure that citizens get quality health care at an affordable cost. The state should develop programs to ensure that it caters not only to the healthcare needs of the well-off class in the society but also the underprivileged people.
Policy Recommendations for Access to Health Care
- The Federal and State government should cooperate towards hastening the implementation of the ObamaCare. Insurance provides an easy channel through which citizens can access medication (Frese et al., 2014).
- Relevant authorities should ensure proper staffing of medical practitioners. Such practitioners should provide quality services to patients to ensure that medical services are not only affordable but also of good quality.
- Equal distribution of health services in rural and municipal areas is essential to limit the distance that individuals cover to access health services. Similarly, the state should provide an equal platform for individuals of different backgrounds to access health services.
- The US government should boost cancer-screening programs by minimizing the out-of-pocket expenses to encourage many citizens to access the diagnosis and treatment of various types of cancer.
Sources of Information Regarding Access to Health Care
With respect to access to health care, individuals can learn about the new policy developments via various platforms. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is a good institution that can help stakeholders to understand the statistics regarding how Americans are receiving health care and/or how they can cooperate with other citizens to assure them of improved access to health care. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion that oversees the implementation of Health 2020 Vision is also a good platform for stakeholders and citizens to understand policies that assure access to health care services (Atlas, 2011).
Level of Government that is Affected by the Policies
For Americans to access quality health care, proper coordination among the various levels of governance must be upheld. The state authorities must cooperate with the federal administration in implementing the existing laws such as the ObamaCare and the aforementioned new policies. Moreover, citizens must remain proactive and supportive in the development of policies that determine how they receive health care services (Shi & Singh, 2011).
Despite being one of the most industrialized countries, the US has struggled with offering a good platform where citizens can easily access healthcare services. However, under President Obama’s regime, the federal government has established the Affordable Care Act, which has paved a way for Americans to be insured. Currently, many US citizens can access healthcare services. Nonetheless, the law has had some of its shortfalls, especially when it comes to addressing the healthcare needs of uninsured people. Hence, there is the need for the US government to develop new policies that address healthcare matters for all people, irrespective of whether they are indemnified or not. This paper has outlined some policies that if adhered to by the pertinent stakeholders will improve health service provision in the US.
Atlas, W. (2011). In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care. California, CA: Hoover Press.
Emanuel, E. (2014). Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error-Prone System. New York, NY: Public Affairs.
Frese, P., Eicher, D. & Hitt, N. (2014). The New Individual Taxes-ObamaCare and the End of the Bush-Era Tax Cuts. Journal of Tax Practice & Procedure, 16(5), 43-50.
Patel, K., & Rushefsky, E. (2014). Healthcare Politics and Policy in America. New York, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
Shi, L., & Singh, A. (2011). Delivering Health Care in America. Massachusetts, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.