A recent analysis conducted by the Commonwealth Fund has shed light on a concerning issue in the United States healthcare system: healthcare affordability is a problem not only for the nation’s poorest patients, but also for high-income individuals. This finding challenges the commonly-held belief that healthcare costs primarily affect low-income individuals in the US.
The analysis, based on data from the Commonwealth Fund’s 2023 International Health Policy Survey, compared healthcare affordability in the US to that of other developed countries. The results showed that nearly a quarter of the US population is covered by health plans that do not provide affordable access to care. This lack of affordability impacts patients from all income brackets, highlighting the widespread nature of the issue.
One key finding of the analysis is the disparity in accessing necessary medical care between low- and middle-income individuals and high-income Americans. In the US, 46 percent of low- and middle-income people forego needed medical care due to cost, compared to 29 percent of high-income individuals. These numbers surpass those of other developed nations, indicating that healthcare affordability challenges are more pronounced in the US.
Similar disparities were also observed in dental care and access to mental healthcare. Low- and middle-income adults in the US are more likely to skip both dental and mental healthcare compared to their high-income counterparts in other countries. This further underscores the extent of healthcare affordability issues in the US.
The analysis also found that even some poor individuals in other developed nations have better healthcare affordability than high-income Americans. In fact, 29 percent of high-income Americans reported skipping or delaying necessary medical care due to cost, a higher percentage than low- and middle-income individuals in other countries.
The Commonwealth Fund researchers suggest that the unique healthcare coverage system in the US, which lacks universal coverage, may contribute to the country’s healthcare affordability challenges. In comparison to other developed nations, the US also spends less on social services.
Addressing the issue of healthcare affordability requires comprehensive solutions. The researchers propose that countries like Germany and the Netherlands, which have fewer income-based affordability disparities, serve as examples for strengthening benefit design and reducing costs for all individuals. Ensuring that health coverage is both affordable and comprehensive is crucial for achieving equitable health outcomes.
Why is healthcare affordability a problem for high-income individuals in the US?
Healthcare affordability is a problem for high-income individuals in the US due to the rising costs of medical care. Despite their higher income, high-income Americans still face challenges in accessing affordable healthcare, including having to skip necessary care and dealing with medical bill problems.
Are healthcare affordability challenges unique to the US?
No, healthcare affordability challenges are not unique to the US. The analysis revealed that several other developed nations also have income disparities when it comes to healthcare affordability. However, the US stands out due to its lack of universal healthcare coverage and lower spending on social services compared to other countries.
How can healthcare affordability be improved?
To improve healthcare affordability, the research suggests implementing policies and approaches that strengthen benefit design and reduce costs for all individuals. Countries like Germany and the Netherlands, which have fewer income-based affordability disparities, provide potential models for comprehensive healthcare coverage. Such models may include insurance coverage requirements, cost-sharing caps, and income-based cost determination.