By | July 28, 2016

Healthcare in America is a topic with both political and personal charges. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has given millions access to healthcare, disparities continue to exist among different ethnic groups. Concurrently, the frightening cost of healthcare takes forms in both fears of medical diagnoses and fears of financial burden. The time to see a doctor is not when you get ill; it is while you are healthy. So, you need to know why care may come too late and how education can make a difference.

The Frightening and Often Unbearable Cost of Healthcare

The financial burden of paying for healthcare impacts 25 percent of families in the U.S., and families with children are more likely to experience this burden than families without children. For Americans, the cost of healthcare is an imminent threat to a person’s well-being, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is reflected in the following statistics:

  • 16.5 percent of families experienced financial problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months.
  • 8.9 percent of families were unable to pay medical bills at all in the past 12 months.
  • Families below 250 percent of the federal poverty level had the highest financial burden of healthcare.

The number of uninsured people also plays a role in the often unbearable and frightening cost of healthcare. The aforementioned statistics are not surprising. Those without insurance are more likely to put off seeing a healthcare provider, but some of the primary reasons men avoid seeing a provider have nothing to do with cost.

Why Do Some Men Avoid Going to the Doctor?

In a study commissioned by Orlando Health, reports Science Daily, men are more likely to rationalize not seeing a doctor than women. In other words, men have a tendency to make excuses to avoid going to the doctor. Key findings of the study include the following:

  • The most common excuse men give is that they are “too busy” to see a doctor.
  • Second, men are afraid of finding out something is wrong with their health.
  • Third, men may be uncomfortable with certain body exams, such as checking the prostate.

Although women may be more likely to see a provider, they may focus more on the financial burden of healthcare. As a result, social workers, case managers and other caregivers must help patients understand routine healthcare, including physical and mental health evaluations, is important.

The Importance of Education and Early Intervention

Health problems can arise unexpectedly. Today’s healthy smile could be hiding the looming danger inside. High blood pressure has been called “the silent killer,” but hundreds of health problems can go unnoticed. Cancers may develop, simple bouts of tiredness could be indicative of diabetes, and unexplained head pain might be the symptom of lesions in the brain.

As expected by these examples, time is of the essence in preventing the exacerbation of health conditions, which can include death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), early detection of cancer is essential to successful treatment. Yet, the only way to detect cancer is through routine healthcare and preventative health screenings.

Meanwhile, health problems are not isolated because of neglect. When a person waits longer to see a healthcare provider, a small problem can quickly grow to become an impactful condition. Mood disorders can lead to severe psychotic symptoms, and unmanaged diabetes can cause organ failure. Previously, the rationale of not finding out what was wrong may have focused on the cost of healthcare, but the ACA is changing that notion.

The Affordable Care Act Changed Access to Healthcare

Access to healthcare is defined by the speed at which healthcare is delivered, the financial cost of treatment and the outcome of care. With the passage of the ACA, the number of Americans without insurance has reached record lows. Since 2010, more than 20 million people have gained access to healthcare through the ACA, and the disparities between ethnic groups is starting to deteriorate, as explained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which include the following:

  • The number of non-Hispanic blacks without insurance dropped more than 50 percent, with more than 4 million Hispanic adults gaining healthcare insurance coverage.
  • The number of white non-Hispanics dropped more than 50 percent, with 8.9 million adults gaining healthcare coverage.

Overall, the overall uninsured rate has dropped to 9.1 percent, which means access to healthcare has reached unprecedented levels. But the problem of avoiding healthcare providers continues, and some may fall into a coverage gap in states that did not expand Medicaid or who do not qualify for subsidy assistance for the payment of healthcare premiums. Moreover, the physical wait to see a provider is beginning to become evident.

The estimated time cost of seeing a healthcare provider is 123 minutes, reports Healthline. Assuming the average wages a person could earn during that time, 123 minutes represents a financial cost of $43 caused by waiting. Meanwhile, long travel times and clinical procedures for racial or ethnic minorities and the unemployed are impacting how quickly a person can see a provider. In fact, those in these groups experience 25- to 28-percent longer wait times to see a provider, making the “too busy” rationale appealing.

Final Thoughts

Waiting to see a doctor, clinician or social worker is not the answer to better healthcare, and improving the overall health of the community you serve can start with you. While the number of insured people grows, consider becoming a Navigator to help your clients enroll in the Affordable Care Act, and take the time to see if they qualify for Medicaid or community-based programs, such as sliding-scale clinics, to encourage them to see a provider regularly. You can help to make sure care does not come too late.

Jason Vanover

Working in health care since 2005, Jason's body of experience encompasses dozens of care settings, including Senior care, psychiatric facilities, nonprofit health service centers, group homes for those with developmental disabilities and beyond. Jason understands the need to tailor his skills to each setting to encourage the best treatment outcomes and promote an inclusive, healing environment.

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