( by Saad Imran )
The year 2020 has been a catastrophic year for the US healthcare system. Even before 2020, the United States Healthcare system was full of complexities and problems, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has exposed its flaws even further.
The lack of uniformity is the main flaw of the United States healthcare system. There are three ways to get insurance in this system: Medicare for people over 65 and with disabilities, Medicaid for people from low-income groups, and group health insurance or other health insurance plans provided by employers.
On December 4, the US recorded its highest number of Covid cases to date.
Hospital beds are filling up pretty fast, and according to a recent report, the US will soon be running out of space in healthcare facilities. With more than two thousand deaths daily, the US has one of the highest death rates in the world. If it stays the same, the US is projected to have 400,000 deaths by March 2021.
However grim the situation might seem, there are still stories of hope. The courageous frontline workers, doctors, and caregivers have shown immense resolve in this crisis.
The Rise of Telehealth
One of the trends of this year has been an increase in the use of Telehealth services. A research study found that out of one thousand participants, more than 55% reported the use of Telehealth services in the past six months.
However, Telehealth services are still evolving, and the American Medical Association has warned hospitals and healthcare providers regarding the risk of a privacy breach and cyber attacks with the use of the technology.
Due to the coronavirus health emergency, more private insurers are now offering coverage for virtual health visits. In a bid to encourage the use of Telehealth services by Physicians and patients, many states have made access to Telehealth easy.
Most of the US population has been suffering from mental health issues during this pandemic. A survey found that nearly one out of five people who survive Covid develop mental health issues. Mental health patients have benefited from Telehealth services as a survey found an increase in demand for these services by mental health patients.
The Present State of Medical Insurance
According to a survey, 14.7% of adults aged 18-64 have no insurance at all. Of those of the insured adults, 66.8% have private insurance, while about 20.4% have been utilizing public insurance.
In 2010, the Obama administration signed the Affordable Care Act into law. This Act was passed to transform the United States Healthcare system and make it more feasible for low-income groups. There were three main objectives of the Affordable Care Act:
- To expand the Medicaid program to cover low-income groups.
- To provide low-income households with tax credits and subsidies to lower their healthcare costs.
- To innovate the delivery methods of healthcare to lower medical costs.
This Act also barred insurance providers from refusing coverage on pre-existing medical conditions or charging more premium on it.
The Affordable Care Act did achieve some of its objectives as a research study found that due to this Act, the number of uninsured people has fallen to historically low levels. It was 46.5 million in 2010 and had fallen to 28.6 million in 2016.
Despite some success of the Act, about 11 million Americans have ‘catastrophic medical expenses,’ which means that their healthcare costs are more than 40% of their income.
What the Future Might Look Like
The incoming Biden Administration has many different plans to improve the US healthcare system. According to a team of the President-elect, he would be focusing on the following things:
- Expanding Medicare and Medicaid. To allow more people to be covered under the program, he would be changing the eligibility criteria.
- Developing a new insurance program. This new program will be more ‘public’ in nature and available to people of any age.
- Developing a new Coronavirus Strategy. It would involve forming a Pandemic advisory board for a more nation-wide approach to combat the virus.