The Looming Threats to a Widening Healthcare Disparity


It’s no secret that disparities exist within our healthcare system. Whether it is race, ethnicity, location, or socioeconomic status, health inequality is prevalent.

While progress has been made to alleviate these disparities, future trends pose a threat. According to a recent study in Health Affairs, four emerging issues could exacerbate the divide between the haves and have-nots in healthcare, and the difference all comes down to access.

The emerging trends include:

  1. Access to innovation: Despite significant medical advances, the innovations often benefit only those who can afford access. Take for instance personalized medicine. Personalized treatments have been shown to improve outcomes, but they are more expensive to develop, and therefore only accessible to specific cohorts of patients.
  2. Availability of Medicaid: With the expansion of Medicaid within the Affordable Care Act (ACA), rates of uninsured individuals decreased, especially among Hispanics (7%) and blacks (5%), meaning more people gained access to insurance. With the plan to repeal the ACA and roll back the expansion of Medicaid, recent estimates predict that more than 22 million people will be uninsured by 2026. And these uninsured individuals are more likely to have poor health status, less likely to receive medical care, and more likely to die prematurely.
  3. Protections for pre-existing conditions: The ACA also included a provision that prevented insurance companies from changing pricing and denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, which would be dissolved if the ACA is repealed. The new Senate bill would also rid states of the condition to provide quality coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, meaning that insurers can skimp on robust plans in favor of “lean” ones that do not cover the costs and the quality level needed for someone with a serious condition.
  4. Exposure to health hazards: Disparities in health go beyond healthcare, as some populations lack the access to a healthy environment. Poor and vulnerable populations are much more likely to be exposed to environmental dangers, such as poor air quality and ingestion of hazardous pollutants. It was found that more than half of the US who live within two miles of a hazardous waste facility are people of color. With a lack of access to move elsewhere, and a lack of economic and political power to improve their communities, many vulnerable populations find themselves stranded and getting sick at their own doorstep.

With changes to technology, legislation, and the environment, vulnerable populations could be disproportionally impacted and their health could suffer. At Healthify, we believe addressing social determinants of health will be the key to shrinking the widening health gap as a result of these trends.

Healthcare organizations and communities can work together to help people thrive. As a partner to health plans, social service agencies, and provider networks working with Medicaid and Medicare members, Healthify enables integrated care to fulfill the promise of a value-based healthcare system.

To improve health outcomes, there has to be a concerted effort to make healthcare and healthy living more accessible to vulnerable communities. Identifying at-risk populations and connecting struggling communities to the right services can help to narrow the widening health disparity gap and suppress these emerging threats. By addressing social determinants of health, we can ensure no one’s health is hindered by their need.


Topics: health disparities

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