The Health Care Crisis in the United States

On numerous fronts, the United States is facing a grave health care crisis as rates of chronic disease are increasing dramatically in comparison to other countries. In the United States:

  • 60 percent of Americans have chronic disease
  • 40 percent have multiple chronic diseases
  • Chronic disease is responsible for 7 in 10 deaths

Our health care systems are inadequately addressing the causes of illness, such as epigenetics, cultural disparities, lifestyle, high stress, and inflammation. Chronic disease is destroying our quality of life and threatening the health of future generations.

One major cause of the crisis is disparity of access to healthcare and inadequacy of treatment options dictated by insurance companies. For those lucky enough to have health insurance, access to healthcare is mediated by insurance companies, which are incentivized to minimize costs. This means patients are limited to the so-called “standard of care,” which fails to quickly incorporate the findings of the last 20 years of medical research. Alternative forms of healthcare, such as preventative and cutting-edge treatments, are rarely, if ever, covered by medical insurance which means most patients with chronic issues will be forced to live with their symptoms to the extent that they can be mitigated by approved pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures.

Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker. 2018. How does health spending in the U.S. compare to other countries?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/health-spending-u-s-compare-countries/#item-start.

The inadequacy of the current paradigm is reflected in the statistics. The US spends 17.8 percent of its GDP on healthcare, which is more than the UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland combined (which range from 9.6 to 12.4%). Despite this relatively high spending, the US had the lowest life-expectancy, at 78.8 years versus 80.7 – 83.9, and highest infant-mortality rate of the group, at 5.8 per 1000 versus an average of 3.6 per 1000 for the other 10 countries. In Medic Ally’s opinion, there are two main reasons for the relatively poor healthcare of the United States. One is that healthcare is narrowly defined as something that’s only necessary when one is sick. The second is access to healthcare, and the majority of these countries, save Japan, have universal health-care. Japan does, however, have an individual mandate, a cost-sharing program through which the government pays 10, 20 or 30 percent of one’s medical fees, and healthcare costs are strictly regulated by the government to keep them affordable.

Locally, many residents of King County feel the effects of this broken system. From 2011 to 2015, an average of 13% of King County adults reported they needed to see a doctor in the past 12 months but could not, due to cost. Nationally, 12.2% of all adults in America lack health insurance, which is expected to increase with the end of the individual mandate in 2019. People of color and low-income residents are at disproportionate risk of being uninsured and having poor health and social outcomes. Many health and social indicators—such as housing quality, alcohol related deaths, obesity, lack of health insurance, and smoking—show regional patterns of inequity. Our sliding scale clinics will address this problem directly, providing healthcare access to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the means.