Access to healthcare isn’t equal. We should do something about it.
As roughly half the population faces reduced access to life-saving care, it’s important to remember that a step back in any area of healthcare access costs lives. Access to healthcare, the cost of care, and the inequities of both have plagued Americans for decades.
The True Cost of Healthcare
The price tag of surviving is going up. In 1960, the percentage of national income spent on health sat at 5%. By 2017, that number increased to 18%. That means families have 15% less income to spend on things such as rent, transportation, and saving for college, retirement, or simply having a safety net.
Healthcare costs roughly $10,739 per person. We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world and one of the least effective among rich nations. The US has a lower life expectancy than most European nations; the Swiss, for example, live more than 5 years longer than Americans and spend 30% less on healthcare.
The Cost of Employment-based Healthcare
While some employers offer healthcare benefits, only about half of Americans actually have coverage through their employer. Workers with family coverage included on their plans pay, on average, 29% of their total insurance costs, or about $5,700 per year. Even when coverage is offered by an employer, it isn’t “giving” away the cost of coverage. Employers typically “build-in” insurance costs into salary and pay raises.
Workers lucky enough to have employer-sponsored healthcare don’t have it forever. As the COVID-19 pandemic showed, employers will always put business before people. During record-breaking layoffs in March and April 2020, more than 7.7 million workers and an additional 6.9 million dependents lost coverage at the same time they lost their jobs and income.
Those realities weren’t shared equally, with lower-income, minority, and women more likely to lose their jobs and their income. The reality is, that those same groups already face more negative health outcomes. It’s an established fact that Hispanic and Black Americans have worse health compared to whites, and poorer communities, regardless of the state, experience a lower quality of health throughout their lives.
Equity in Cancer Prevention
Access to lifelong preventative medicine not only improves the overall quality of life, it greatly reduces the risk of diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes, heart disease to stroke. We need to reduce the impact that environmental and social issues play on accessing healthcare. According to the CDC, the most important social determinants of health include:
· Access to education
· Healthy food
· A safe home
· Reliable transportation
· Clean water and air
Avoiding several important risk factors is also vital. Americans who smoke, are overweight or obese, or lack access to preventative medicine like cancer screenings decrease quality of life and increase the risk of disease.
Get Involved And Support Access For All
Expanding healthcare access won’t happen overnight. Learn more about cancer prevention, access to healthcare, and other important efforts to make the world a healthier, happy place. Stay connected with the mission at LessCancer.org.
Access to Healthcare: The True Costs was originally published in Less Cancer Journal on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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