Is There Healthcare Inequality In The United States?

How can you identify if there’s health inequality in your country? Health inequality is when one group of individuals is in a much worse health condition compared with another group.

In the United States, health inequality stems from income inequality. Studies suggest that the higher your income, the better is your health. 

Why is there health inequality in the United States? Well, it is the only developed country that has a dependency on private health insurance. Therefore, those with company-sponsored plans have improved access to healthcare more than others. 

Before the Affordable Care Act was introduced, about 20% of people in the U.S. had little or no health insurance.

Consequently, nearly 45,000 of them died each year as they could not afford the expensive rates of health care services.

Some people found that they have exhausted all their savings, lost their homes, and suffered credit card debt. The economy incurred since half of all bankruptcies were resulted due to high medical costs.

What Are The Possible Causes of Healthcare Inequality?

Following are the six reasons why low-income individuals have poor health:

  • The poor are more likely to fall ill: A 2013 study discovered that the total number of low-income families in poor health was about 15% higher than well-to-do families.

    High blood pressure (also called hypertension) affected nearly 38.6% of the poorest fifth in the study against 29.9% of the wealthiest fifth.

  • Increasing the cost of healthcare services: The increasing cost of healthcare services can drive people into poverty. A 2018 study revealed that medical costs pushed 7 million people below the federal poverty line.

    Medical expenses have become debt-collecting companies’ biggest business. Each year, about 530,000 people announce medical bankruptcy.

  • Disparities in care: Low-income groups might not have access to the best hospitals, doctors’ clinics, or medical facilities. This is particularly true in rural regions. Southern also states substandard care than northern ones if assessed by health checkups.  

  • Poor health may give rise to poverty: Families with poor health are more likely to end up in poverty. It is challenging to get and keep a high-paying job if you have a chronic illness.

    Conditions, including drug addiction and alcoholism, can make any ongoing job impracticable.

  • Lack of access to health insurance: Most of the working poor aren’t eligible for Medicaid. They can obtain a subsidy under the affordable care act (ACA), but usually, those policies only cover a few hospitals and doctors’ practices.

    Moreover, in rural areas, the medical services covered may be inadequate. Simultaneously, employers have curtailed their share. 

  • Age: Older adults are more likely to fall ill, and that makes up the sixth probable cause of healthcare inequality. Additionally, this group of people is also more likely to be poor.

    A 2016 study found that about 50% of people on Medicare had incomes below $26,200. Nearly 10% lived below the poverty level.

How Does Healthcare Inequality Impacts You?

Healthcare inequality tends to increase medical care expenses for everyone. Individuals who cannot afford preventive care ultimately end up in the hospital emergency. For instance, it is way too inexpensive to treat diabetes with medications than to manage diabetic coma in a hospital. 

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act need hospitals to treat anyone who comes into the emergency room. These uninsured patients cost hospitals an overwhelming $10 billion each year.

The hospitals approved this cost across Medicaid. That cost is included in your tax bill.

In 2009, about 50% of people who used a hospital stated they went because they had no other place to visit for medical assistance. They utilize emergency rooms as their primary care physician.

It’s an important reason why the number of emergency room visits amplified from 90.3 million in 1996 to 145.3 million in 2017.

Concerning medical bankruptcy, the insured were 6% more likely to announce bankruptcy in the past than the uninsured. They were not ready for unanticipated deductible and coinsurance expenses.

About two-thirds didn’t recognize their hospital was not a part of their plan. Neatly 25% discovered that the insurance rejected their claims.  

Even those individuals with Medicare are not safe. The average 65-year-old couple encounters $295,000 in medical expenses during retirement. They have to abandon their retirement dreams in order to pay these expenses.

How Can You Make Healthcare More Equal?

Universal health care refers to a system that offers medical services to every citizen. The federal government provides it to everyone irrespective of their ability to pay. It has numerous advantages. Some of them are listed below:

  • It reduces all medical expenses. The government checks the prices through regulation and negotiation. 

  • Reduces administrative expenses: It eradicates the administrative costs of dealing with various private health insurers. Health care specialists don’t have to hire staff to manage health insurance company norms.

  • Creates a healthier staff: Studies revealed that preventive care lowers the requirement for expensive emergency room usage. About 46% of emergency room patients went as they had no other place to visit with no access to preventive care.

    They used the emergency room as their primary care physician. This health care inequality is a critical reason for the increasing prices of medical care.

  • Provides quality services at a lower cost: It pushes hospitals and doctors to deliver the same standard service at a cheaper price. In a competitive environment like that in the United States, healthcare specialists endeavors to use the latest technologies and equipment.

    They deliver expensive services and so they need to pay their doctors more. This makes them target the wealthy in the nation so that they could charge more from them and yield higher profits. 


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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.