Healthcare is big business. In the United States, the healthcare sector makes up about 20% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (Healthcare Triage, 2014). Whether directly or indirectly, most of the companies that make up the Fortune 500 are stakeholders of some sort in the medical industries, from Big Pharma to equipment manufacturing to the care itself (Healthcare Triage, 2014). Americans, through their employers or the government access system, purchase an insurance plan, and then pay copays to use their plans after their deductibles have been met. Unless a patient is on Medicare, Medicaid, or another government plan, the insurance policy is owned by a private business whose own profits play a role in the type of care people receive.
While the country has such a large healthcare system in place, care for many can be difficult. While the government has drawn penalties for businesses that do not offer insurance options for employees, the penalty is often less costly than footing the bill for insuring the entire company (Healthcare Triage, 2014). Uninsured and underinsured individuals may forego treatment if they cannot afford the cost of being seen by a physician or purchasing prescription drugs. Additionally, the cost in some regions of the country are far more expensive than others, so patient geography even plays a role in the price of a patient’s health (Healthcare Triage, 2014). Heavier populated areas may also see longer wait times for scheduling, as so many others are vying for the same appointment times.
Being has healthcare has become less patient-driven and more profit-driven, many big box and drug stores are opening their own walk-in clinics to compete with large urgent care clinic chains and hospital systems (Healthcare Triage, 2014). This can be beneficial to the patient, as lower-cost treatment options may be more readily available. And, with business, money tends to shape businesses; when more people are interested in certain products, technology eventually catches up and creates new and improved options. The same can be said for medical treatments (Healthcare Triage, 2014). Stakeholders are more likely to invest in the development of novel treatments if there is a market demand for them. Because of this, patients have more access to a variety of treatments than ever.
While the US healthcare system is great and helps millions of Americans daily, the system has its flaws. Putting patients above profits is crucial to ensuring that all Americans get the right care at the right time by the right provider. The economic aspects of care are important but should not be the driving force behind how we care for those who we strive to treat. Expanding the Medicare/Medicaid model to more than those of a certain age or income would help more people have access to healthcare that they would not be able to afford otherwise. An idea of Medicare for All has been quite popular among the Democratic political trail this year and, though it may not be immediately adoptable, could be eased in with time. A quick change could collapse the market entirely, affording no one care. Slow changes over a period of months and years could help everyone get the healthcare they deserve no matter their income or geography.
Healthcare Triage. (2014, February 17). The healthcare system of the United States. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN-MkRcOJjY