The American healthcare system has numerous inequalities that emanate from factors such as race, gender, religion, social and economic class, and sexual orientation. According to scholars, health inequality can be explored from three main perspectives that include disparities in health itself, disparities in care, and disparities in health insurance (Abdou, Fingerhut, Jackson & Wheaton, 2016). In Miami, these challenges are experienced in hospital settings every day, and the most affected are people belonging to minority groups. The implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was welcomed as a positive move that would aid in eradicating inequality in health (Jacobsen, 2014). However, minority groups are still not able to access quality medical care despite the enactment of the health care law.
I have had personal experiences with the concept of discrimination and inequity in the health care system in my community (Miami). A middle-aged Hispanic male came to a hospital where I was volunteering complaining of severe chest pain, fatigue, and nausea. At the reception desk, the nurse made a disrespectful comment about the patient’s race and age that had a negative impact on his health care. The patient developed a negative attitude that resulted in the loss of trust and willingness to follow the physician’s instructions. He became irritable, rude, and aggressive. The patient was so angry that he stormed out of the hospital in a rage, vowing to never come back to that hospital. He ignored the doctor’s prescription and avoided talking to any other physician in that facility. The stereotyping experience denied him the opportunity to get help and mitigate his suffering. His symptoms intensified, and three weeks later, he came back much worse. The treatment was more expensive and took a long time.
At the same hospital, I experienced a case of health inequity involving an African-American teenage mother. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health disparities between African Americans and other racial groups are very high (Jacobsen, 2014). They are evident in health aspects such as life expectancy and infant mortality. For example, infant mortality is one and half times higher among African American women than white women. The mother was turned away because she had not paid her insurance premiums after losing her job. The hospital did not offer health care to such patients and those who lacked insurance cover. Denying patient medical care because of an expired insurance cover is unjust. The hospital could have helped her find a cheaper insurance cover rather than turn her away without any help. According to government statistics, enrollment in state and federal Marketplace plans increase by more than 10 million people (Abdou et al., 2016). However, this number was small considering that the ACA contains provisions that allow low-income earners to get access to affordable insurance cover.
The high rate of infant mortality and low life expectancy can be attributed to inequalities in the American health care system. Minority groups suffer the effects of these injustices, most as evident in the poor health outcomes observed in their communities. Quality health care is a human right that every American citizen should get access to. However, factors such as stereotypes and discrimination deny people belonging to minority groups access to quality health care. It is important for every citizen to get access to quality health care regardless of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or economic status.
Abdou, C.M., Fingerhut, A. W., Jackson, J. S., & Wheaton, F. (2016). Healthcare Stereotype Threat in Older Adults in the Health and Retirement Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 50(2), 191-198.
Jacobsen, K. H. (2014). Introduction to Global Health. New York, NY: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.