Is American Healthcare Headed for a Collapse?

Healthcare in Trouble
As COVID-19 continues to challenge countries worldwide, all eyes are on the US as its healthcare system teeters on the edge of collapse.

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As COVID-19 continues to challenge countries worldwide, all eyes are on the US as its healthcare system teeters on the edge of collapse. The nation currently struggles with 31 million cases, and more issues about the healthcare system have surfaced as a result. These struggles raise the question of whether American healthcare is on the brink of failing and if it can survive the aftermath.

The Current State of the Healthcare System with COVID-19

This dire situation may not come as a shock to people, given the trajectory of the Coronavirus in 2020. Many public health experts predicted that healthcare centers would eventually be overwhelmed with the number of COVID-19 patients when the pandemic began. This past January, there were reports of hospitals running out of healthcare workers, with several more unable to admit patients with cases unrelated to COVID-19. The problem has spilled past the COVID-19 wards and affected the entire healthcare system.

Probing Deeper into the Healthcare Crisis

While COVID-19 might seem like the singular cause of this crisis, other factors led to similar issues in American healthcare throughout history. The Industrial Revolution saw a proposal for qualified individuals to receive healthcare benefits, the cost of which would be split between states, employers, and employees. However, support was pulled in favor of the private insurance industry. The same pattern emerged in the late ’60s when then-President Nixon pushed for a more drastic and comprehensive healthcare reform scheme, being the first US leader to declare a healthcare crisis.

Today, the US healthcare model depends on the same direct-fee systems and private health insurance, contributing to some of the following issues.

Outdated Health Insurance System

Under the direct-fee service system, patients must shoulder medical expenses independently, with help from private insurance and employers. However, 9% or roughly 29 million Americans remain uninsured, which can lead to dire consequences. While there is little prospect that the federal government will legislate, some states are taking action with mixed strategies, including expanding existing programs to cover low-income individuals, creating insurance pools for businesses and the self-employed, and subsidizing insurance premiums. Employers are also taking on the responsibility of providing coverage for employees.

The Nursing Shortage

To address the alarming shortage of nursing professionals, hospitals have increased compensation and benefits to attract more talent. Educational institutions, too, are trying to find ways to meet the demand for competent professionals amid shrinking faculty, an aging workforce, and unprecedented challenges to learning. Even before the pandemic, schools had begun a shift towards online RN to BSN programs to train more nurses in healthcare leadership, family assessment, and nursing informatics wherever they may be. With coursework that can be accomplished entirely online, these programs were designed to help meet the critical demand for advanced nurses even before the pandemic hit. The Institute Of Medicine calls for 80% of nursing professionals to earn their BSN by this year. Meanwhile, doctors are using digital resources such as interactive websites and podcasts to frontload theoretical learning until opportunities for practical learning are permitted.

Cost of Healthcare

The US is known for having some of the highest spending rates for healthcare in the world. Two reasons are evident: There is an immense need for administrative services for insurance billing and record-keeping, and the fee-for-service model is still widely used. While the obvious solution would be to transition to value-based care in which providers are compensated based on effectiveness, it isn’t easy to attain without proper legislation. Ordinary Americans can start by choosing providers with the most value to stimulate competition and exercise their right to vote and influence policy.

Along with other problems such as racial gender and bias, poor health of medical practitioners, and medical ethics, one might say that the healthcare system was doomed from the start.

Has the American Healthcare System Truly Collapsed?

While the answer to this might be an obvious “yes,” these consecutive failures may not be a sign of collapse at all, but rather a closed loop in a parasitic cycle. The healthcare ‘system’s access to resources like money, energy, and supply depends on a system that both sustains itself and remains unstable, leaving everyone in a state of limbo. Whether legislation meets change where it needs to happen, the ordinary American can start by wanting healthcare reform for the collective good.

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By Vine Holly

Please join me in welcoming Vine Holly as our newest contributor.  I think you will find her articles provocative, poignant, and thought-provoking! We are delighted to have her writing with us.

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