Despite improvements in treatments for the sick and injured, discoveries of new and often more effective drugs, and more hospital facilities that claim to be state of the art, uninsured Americans have been victims of an increase in those who die prematurely. That may be an argument for universal health care, or it may be the result of a hard-to-detect flaw in the system that includes better treatment for the well-off than the poor.
A report from FamiliesUSA called “Dying for Coverage: The Deadly Consequences of Being Uninsured” shows that:
- Across the nation, 26,100 people between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage in 2010.
- Between 2005 and 2010, the number of people who died prematurely each year due to a lack of health coverage rose from 20,350 to 26,100.
It has been widely assumed that doctors and the medical community at large treat all patients equally well. But FamiliesUSA attributes the absence of universally fair treatment to the issue of insurance. The organization concedes that people without insurance pay more for medical treatment than the insured do. If anything, those who pay the most should be treated the best, if money is really an issue.
At the center of the health care quality disparity question may be the issues of employment and poverty. The poor and out-of-work are less likely to have insurance. But the medical community, like other communities, may treat the poor differently from the middle class and the wealthy. Any group that shows evidence of such biases would reject the accusation, but that does not make it untrue. Many studies show that the poor are essentially “invisible” in a society that often worships economic success. Why should the medical community be any different?
For all the doctors who aid the poor, there are probably more than an equal number who better treat the well-off.
Douglas A. McIntyre