Healthcare refers to the field concerned with the support or restoration of the physical or mental well-being of individuals and populations. Inequalities in healthcare are expressed through considerable disparities in life expectancy and health between affluent and impoverished communities. The issues of inequality and health disparities require policymakers to develop effective healthcare initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act. The following essay will discuss the topic of healthcare, investigate the role of policies in health equity, and evaluate the impact of the Affordable Care Act.
Health might be defined not only as the absence of a disease but also as a state of emotional and physical well-being. Thus, it is the primary goal of healthcare to help people maintain or restore optimal health. The field of healthcare continually evolves as the researchers develop new approaches to the treatment of diseases and attempt to facilitate the management of chronic conditions. Moreover, the integration of information technology (IT) into healthcare systems improves the quality of diagnostics, provides timely lab testing results, and enhances patient safety and satisfaction. However, healthcare innovations cannot guarantee positive patient outcomes and longer life expectancy when there are barriers to universal healthcare that are especially evident in vulnerable or underserved populations.
Poor access to healthcare and disparities among patient populations undermine the governmental efforts to build a healthy nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States spent $3.5 trillion on healthcare costs in 2017 despite relatively low life expectancy rates among the developed countries (Felman). The data indicates the need for effective financial management in healthcare to reduce the costs of treatment and ensure universal health coverage. Healthcare policies play a crucial role in health equity by improving access to healthcare and optimizing medical expenditures.
Healthcare policies are political or organizational initiatives promoting safety, improving health outcomes and quality of care, and reducing the financial burden for patients and medical facilities. Policies play a significant role in contemporary healthcare systems as they provide standardization that facilitates an impartial approach to clinical practice for medical professionals. Equity-based guidelines in healthcare policies might be used to achieve desired outcomes in diverse populations and enhance the decision-making process while dealing with complex clinical cases requiring equal and fair treatment of patients. Moreover, policies contain legal and regulatory requirements that are vital for patient safety and healthcare equity. Therefore, equal access to medical care is one of the most important tasks of healthcare policies.
One of the most prominent healthcare policies in the US is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The policy was introduced on March 23, 2010 and completely implemented in 2014 (Gaffney and McCormick 1442). The Act expanded insurance coverage and provided previously uninsured individuals with access to Medicare and Medicaid services. The effects of the ACA might be described as ambiguous and controversial, and the policy has its supporters and opponents.
On the one hand, the impact of the ACA is generally positive. The policy facilitates equal access to care, and it regularly helps disadvantaged and underserved Americans to receive affordable healthcare services. By 2016, the policy decreased the number of uninsured individuals to a historically low level of 28.6 million (Blumenthal et al.). Additionally, the ACA initiative proved to be financially effective, as the Medicaid contributed to lower government expenses and healthcare costs. The Act also helped to decrease the cost of prescription medication and make it affordable for vulnerable populations, including seniors and low-income citizens. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Obamacare initiative saved about $26.8 billion on prescription medication (Roland). Moreover, the policy improved the coverage of screening procedures and tests, which provided equal access to preventive measures for diverse populations. At last, the Act prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage or issue additional charges for patients with preexisting conditions, such as cancer or diabetes.
On the other hand, the ACA has its drawbacks. There are concerns about the financial and organizational barriers that the policy did not improve or even worsened. Firstly, since the insurance companies included a broader list of conditions, the cost of premiums increased for insured individuals. Secondly, the taxes for high-income Americans were expanded to subsidize access to health insurance and healthcare services for low-income populations. Thirdly, the ACA indicated large tax penalties for uninsured individuals in an attempt to achieve nationwide mandatory insurance coverage. Finally, the ACA negatively impacted financial support for safety-net hospitals after it introduced penalties for patient readmissions. Safety-net hospitals serve diverse patients, who cannot afford insurance and medical treatment, so the penalties for such medical facilities undermine the efforts for universal healthcare.
All in all, healthcare is a broad and constantly evolving field dedicated to the maintenance and restoration of well-being. Policies are vital in healthcare, as they regulate the functioning of health services and support equal access to care for individuals and populations. The analysis of the major US policy, the Affordable Care Act, demonstrated that the initiative has its advantages and disadvantages. Overall, its impact is might be defined as ambiguous or mixed.
Blumenthal, David, et al. “The Affordable Care Act at 10 Years: What’s the Effect on Health Care Coverage and Access?” The Commonwealth Fund, 2020, Web.
Felman, Adam. “What is Good Health?” Medical News Today, 2020, Web.
Gaffney, Adam, and Danny McCormick. “The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Health-care Equity.” The Lancet, vol. 389, no. 10077, 2017, pp. 1442–1452.
Roland, James. “The Pros and Cons of Obamacare.” Healthline, 2019, Web.