Finances & Money

Inequalities in Healthcare-Are The Rich Treated Better at Hospitals?

healthcare, inequalities in healthcare, healthcare problems
Many people consider access to healthcare to be one of the benchmarks of a just, and equal society. And many would argue that the United States gives equal access to all people to the same levels of service and health related care. However, other people would argue that there isn’t equal access to the same type of care, especially once a patient is admitted into a hospital.

What is the truth?

Equal access to healthcare isn’t just about going to the doctor and having the doctor treat whatever ails you, it is also having the ability to understand and navigate the system that you enter once you are admitted into the hospital.  One would argue that both rich and poor patients deal with the same level of confusion and uncertainty about the best course of action to take upon admission into the hospital.

The system of filing insurance claims, managing in-hospital or out-patient treatments, and feeling comfortable requesting a second opinion is intimidating to the best of us.

The perception that rich patrons are treated better at hospitals may stem from the following: the rich tend to go to hospitals where they can receive a high level of care-because they can. Prior to the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Medical Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, poor patients would be treated in hospitals that accepted individuals with inadequate health insurance or individuals who were completely without health insurance coverage.

Wealthier individuals are better able to navigate the medical system and when they feel their needs aren’t being managed to their expectations, these patients may be more comfortable articulating what they are dissatisfied with or asking for a second opinion. This ability to navigate the system with confidence may be the most important difference in patient care.

Caregivers are tasked with helping all patients equally, but there is a level of skittishness that occurs during the patient admission process. As hospital costs continue to rise, hospitals find themselves navigating the tricky waters of deciding who is eligible for treatment. This philosophy flies in the face of the Hippocratic oath in particular this part of the oath: “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability.”

Patients without insurance or patients who are perceived to be financial risks have been denied access to hospital facilities. In a number of cases, those patients died upon arrival at county hospitals were they were sent for treatment.

When people hear of these type of incidents it undermines their belief that the system is fair for all.

Ultimately, working with the poor, educating them on how to articulate their needs, and helping them to find stakeholders and support as they navigate the medical system are the key to creating a more just and equal level of medical treatment. Empowered people are harder to mistreat because they have are comfortable having their needs addressed.

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1 Comment

  • Navigating insurance is tough, even for us seasoned veterans of it. Part of it is not being afraid to call your insurance and ask them questions about what is and what isn’t covered.

    That said, I’d also like to point out that rich people will tend to have better coverage than poor people. That can mean that hospitals are more willing to run tests or use different, more expensive procedures that could make a difference in the level of healthcare.

    I think most medical/hospital workers do want to provide the same levels of care. But they also have to be mindful that they don’t cause huge amounts of debt for the patient by offering services that might not be covered and/or because the hospital won’t be reimbursed because the insurance is a little dicey.

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