- Katherine Shi
How COVID-19 Has Impacted Our Healthcare System
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
With the pandemic still on-going in the US, we inevitably have to face the shortcomings associated with the American healthcare system. More than $3 trillion is spent annually on healthcare expenses--a staggering figure. You might expect that with this level of investment, the nation would have the means to provide quality healthcare for its citizens; however, this has not been the case. Poor access to primary care has led to inadequate prevention and management of chronic diseases, delayed diagnosis, coordination and safety problems, etc. Another significant inefficiency of the healthcare system is the amount of money spent on administration: different insurance plans cover different treatments and procedures, which inevitably leads to doctors spending precious hours simply coordinating with insurance companies to provide care.
COVID-19 has only made the situation worse. From March 1, 2020 to June 30,2020, the AHA has estimated that hospitals have experienced a financial impact of $202.6 billion in losses, or roughly $50.7 billion per month. Considering that the cost of treating a patient with COVID-19 could climb to around $20,000, and over $88,000 for patients requiring ventilator support, the financial pressures hospitals face cannot be overlooked.
However, we must also acknowledge that health professionals across the country are doing all they possibly can during such an unprecedented health crisis: hospitals have ramped up testing efforts and are treating hundreds of thousands of Americans by establishing testing tents, increasing general and intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity, and developing COVID-19 units to isolate and treat patients. These actions have undoubtedly taken their toll on the healthcare workforce through physical and mental exhaustion. Not only that, handling the virus has worn out hospital infrastructure and health systems are struggling with shortages on necessary supplies.
Outside of the healthcare industry, many individuals must deal with their own personal crises or issues. Since March, millions of workers have faced unemployment, many of whom suddenly found themselves uninsured as nearly 50% of the workforce receive employer-sponsored health insurance. This is a significant flaw of an employment-based healthcare system: when workers are furloughed, they are left with no coverage and no income to help them should they face illness or accident. To complicate things further, not all states have decided to expand Medicaid coverage.
Thanks to COVID-19, we are confronted with the simple, grim truth that the American healthcare system is not equipped to deal with a crisis of this scale. If another health crisis arises in the future--though it may not be on a global scale like the coronavirus--our healthcare system must develop the resiliency and preventative measures needed to ensure the health of the people. How can we, the nation’s citizens, help to bring this future of a reformed system about? Here are a few things you can do right now.
Get informed. The healthcare reform issue is extremely complicated and reading a variety of perspectives can help broaden your understanding. Some good resources include:
The Kaiser Family Foundation (nonprofit focused on the country’s healthcare issues)
The Commonwealth Fund (private foundation promoting improvements to the healthcare system)
HealthReform.gov (a site from the Department of Health and Human Services)
Write or call your elected officials. Let them know what you think about healthcare reform
Join an advocacy organization (such as Show Me “A Healthy” State!) to spread awareness about this issue and why it’s important
Talk to friends, family, and colleagues. Healthcare reform can be a daunting, complicated subject and helping others understand what is at stake may encourage them to get involved as well
In this time of the pandemic, the shortcomings of the healthcare system need to be addressed in order to take steps to make healthcare services more accessible and affordable for everyone, regardless of race or gender. Your voice matters.
Remember: Learn, Vote, Act.