Over the past year, each and every one of us has taken stock and it would be fair to say that a lot more of us prioritize our health and wellbeing than before. However, the past year has also shown the cracks in our healthcare systems, no matter what country we live in. But we all know that the US is a bit… ‘unusual’ with how they approach healthcare.
The country spends the most on healthcare, per capita, than any other developed nation; however, the end result isn’t better care but higher prices, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Tumblr user Avilociraptor opened up about the American healthcare system and how, in their experience, even “one of the most top-tier insurance plans available” wasn’t enough for them to get a meeting with their doctor immediately. Check out Avilociraptor’s story below, let us know what you think, and share your own experiences with health insurance in the comments, dear Pandas.
Avilociraptor spoke to Bored Panda about their viral post, about the changes to the health insurance system in the US, its issues, as well as what could be done to improve it in the future. “I wrote this post in a hospital cafeteria with an oxygen tank by my side, having just received a devastating diagnosis. As you can imagine, I was floored to find a friend had shared my post to their Facebook timeline the other day, not knowing I was the author. I’ve spent much of the last two days reading every comment and share I can find. I think it speaks volumes that this post is resonating with so many people, especially now that the pandemic has left so many of us without any health insurance at all.” Read on for the Tumblr user’s in-depth insights into the American healthcare system and what’s stopping it from being changed.
The US healthcare system is very wasteful. And even “top-tier” insurance plans don’t guarantee that you’ll see a doctor soon, as one person detailed
Image credits: Martha Dominguez de Gouveia
Image credits: avilociraptor
The Center for American Progress explains that the type of insurance coverage (private vs. public) you have, as well as where you live affects the average wait times to see a doctor.
Meanwhile, according to the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, in 2019, health spending per person in the US was 10,966 dollars.
That sounds like a lot, and it is, but the real size becomes apparent when you compare it to the country with the next highest per capita health spending, Switzerland. US spending is a whopping 42 percent bigger than Switzerland’s which came in at second place.
What’s more, wealthy countries spend, on average, only half of what the US does on healthcare per person. Unfortunately, higher spending doesn’t translate into better, faster, more approachable healthcare for everyone in the US.
The New York Times reported on a study about how around 20 to 25 percent of American healthcare spending, or at least 760 billion dollars per year, is “wasteful” and could be cut out. So even small savings-focused changes to the system would have huge effects.
The quality of the healthcare system has gone further downhill
According to Avilociraptor, a lot has changed in their personal life, as well as in the US since they first published their Tumblr post back in 2017. And far from every change is for the better, unfortunately. “From my end, I have seen the overall quality of care degrade as wait times have become even longer with appointments now sometimes as short as five minutes. The health care system is still dismissive and even hostile to patients who are black or indigenous. As a parent, I can now tell you that pediatrics is just as afflicted as adult medicine and is sometimes even worse.”
Avilociraptor told Bored Panda that this isn’t because more people have access to healthcare. Rather, it’s because of how the “private insurance model has destroyed the doctor-patient relationship by strangling the autonomy of both patients and providers.” As insurance companies continue to restrict physicians’ ability to provide quality care for their patients, the latter are leaving their practices. “Nurses are overworked and underpaid, and yet we demonize them when they strike to provide safer conditions for themselves and their patients,” the author of the post added.
Americans genuinely care about their fellow citizens being healthy
We were curious to get the original poster’s opinion as to why some Americans are resistant to the idea to universal healthcare. The reality of the situation is that this resistance is interwoven with a genuine desire to see others be happy and healthy. “It is too easy to say we are all heartless, and I think most Americans want to have their fellow citizens taken care of because they realize the humanity of the situation. Those who are not persuaded by humanity are swayed by the pragmatics of universal healthcare access—mainly that a healthy population is better for every single economic marker and is less expensive than the system we currently have. Even someone who is completely self-centered would rather pay less from every paycheck as long as their own healthcare isn’t disrupted,” Avilociraptor gave their take.
Direct democracy would fix a lot of the current issues?
They continued, highlighting that the flaws in the system flow from the issues with (ironically) how limited democracy can sometimes feel in the US: “The problem is one of implementation rather than desire. The people in this country are nearly powerless on these matters as our government does not represent the people or carry out the will of its citizens. As much as we like to pretend our government is for and by the people, we are not a direct democracy. While 70%+ of Americans support a single-payer healthcare system, the public wanting something does not make it happen in this country.”
Avilociraptor was to-the-point that the only chance for Americans to be heard is to “regularly write to our representatives on all levels of government,” as well as “pray they hear us and are inspired to action.” However, many Americans don’t even bother writing letters because they don’t get many results.
Bridging the gap between citizens and their representatives is key
“The reality is that while politicians may have our best interests at heart when they are first elected, their interest in the needs of the people who elected them fade away quickly due to lobbying and corporate interests,” the Tumblr user shared their opinion about how even politicians genuinely interested in making the country a better place eventually have their idealism blunted by the way the real world works. But Avilociraptor isn’t planning on giving up anytime soon. They believe that bringing the country under scrutiny can create a better, brighter future.
“Despite these roadblocks, I refuse to resign myself to a position of hopelessness. I know doctors and nurses want the ability to treat their patients as they see fit. I know that most people want their fellow human beings—even the ones they don’t like—to access the healthcare they need. What we need to puzzle out now is how to bridge the gap between the will of the people and those who wield the power in this country.”