COVID-19 has been around for more than a year now and it has certainly changed the perspective of life for many. The pandemic spread through the country quicker than anyone would have expected and it really exposed the US healthcare system which appears to be unprepared to handle this type of crisis.
Long before we knew it, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the systemic flaws in the American healthcare system. As the number of patients started to rise at an alarming rate, the healthcare system failed to manage uneven spikes in the services’ demand, to make PPE available to the frontline staff quickly enough, and even to handle the supply of ventilators across the country. But why did that happen in a country that spends heavily on healthcare? Let’s figure out the systemic flaws revealed in the American Healthcare system and what could be the possible solutions.
1. Public Health Crisis
As the COVID-19 hit the US, the country saw a public health crisis as the healthcare system failed to identify the novel coronavirus quickly enough and curb the spread of the virus. There weren’t enough resources available to conduct the tests in the early days of the pandemic, and the physical-distancing guidelines weren’t imposed in time. There was an inconsistent and delayed response to the pandemic at the national level. In fact, many states have already abandoned strict physical-distancing guidelines with no proper measures taken for ensuring that the resurgence could be avoided.
2. Health Insurance Cover Was Not Available To Every American
As COVID-19 struck the economy, there was a huge spike in unemployment in the country with millions of Americans losing their employer-sponsored insurance. In a recently conducted Commonwealth Fund Survey, around 40% of the respondents who were laid off during the pandemic had employer-sponsored insurance. However, even before the American economy saw the pandemic-induced decline, around 28 million Americans were living without health insurance. With millions stripped of their employer-based health insurance after the pandemic, the situation is certainly a major concern and exposes the weaknesses in the American Healthcare system. A national health insurance plan is certainly the need of the hour to cover every American out there.
3. The Cost Of Health Care Increases The Risk Further
Even though the United States spends on health care more than other countries, there’s very little to show for it. The health insurance costs were already rising ahead of the pandemic and some 28 million Americans were uninsured. Most of the Americans are on the brink of getting into medical debt, with 1 out of every 3 individuals reporting that they’d have to borrow money or sell their belongings to cover only a $400 medical bill that comes unexpectedly. So, as the pandemic hit the country, around 33 million Americans filed for unemployment and there was no national healthcare system in place to take care of them, affordable health care was almost inaccessible to US citizens.
4. Not Enough Staff Was Available To Deal With The Medical Emergency
The US states that were hit the hardest by the novel coronavirus weren’t just short on equipment, but they didn’t have enough staff either. They had to encourage retired doctors and nurses to come back to work. Medical schools conducted their graduation ceremonies early to allow their students to take care of COVID-19 patients. The chaotic situation that we had to go through certainly highlights the need for reshaping medical education for ensuring that more doctors and healthcare professionals graduate with a broader skillset allowing them to offer general healthcare services whenever needed.
How The US Healthcare Could Be Improved To Deal With Such Emergencies In Future?
There are some key steps that should be taken to deal with the flaws of the healthcare system in the US. Some of them are mentioned here:
- Realigning the health system to cater for the need to avoid and treat chronic ailments, which affect around 100 million US citizens.
- Solving the problem of data liquidity in order to ensure that information is shared more seamlessly across systems.
- Training the physician workforce in the country to cope with the modern challenges in healthcare.
- Getting rid of unnecessary paperwork as well as regulatory burdens that hinder efficient delivery of high-quality health care.
The need to overhaul the health care system has existed long before the pandemic shifted our focus towards it. The leaders in healthcare, technology, and business must put in a collaborative effort to eliminate these discrepancies to put the country’s healthcare system on a new course. We need healthcare that is efficient, accessible, and affordable for everyone.