For many Americans, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed new cracks in the U.S. healthcare system. We’ve long known that Americans pay more for medical care than any country in the world, but a new PBS NewsHour-Marist poll shows just how much damage the recent crisis has caused. Compared to statistics taken earlier this year, more people now feel that the U.S. has worse healthcare compared to other countries.
This could lead to a sweeping sense of distrust among your patients, so let’s find out how the country really feels about its healthcare system.
A Dramatic Shift in Public Approval
Back in February when very few Americans were infected with COVID-19, the PBS NewsHour and Marist reported that 25% of those polled believed their healthcare system is below average worldwide, while 28% said it was average compared to other countries. In addition, 43% rated it as one of the best or above average.
When taken again in July, the same poll found that 35% of respondents felt their healthcare is below average or poor compared to other nations, while just 21% referred to it as average. Additionally, 42% said it was one of the best or above average, marking a slight decrease from before.
The poll also reveals a sweeping disparity among registered Republicans and Democrats. Those on the right were far more likely (74%) to rate the country’s healthcare system as one of the best or above average than Democrats (22%). Older voters also tend to be more approving of the country’s healthcare system than their younger counterparts.
As for the current crisis, 56% of respondents said the U.S. response to COVID-19 is below average, if not the worst, compared to other countries.
Post pandemic, more Americans seem to have a favorable opinion of universal healthcare (55%), a slight increase from when the poll was taken in February (52%).
What’s to Account for These Changes?
Americans seem to be waking up to the reality that their country’s healthcare system isn’t as good as they thought it was. The news has been dominated by long lines at coronavirus testing centers, overworked staff, and nurses wearing homemade PPE on their faces. These stories are sure to have an effect on the American people, even if they haven’t experienced these situations first-hand. Others may have known someone that died from the disease, while many remain concerned about their families.
The public is also watching other countries, such as those in Europe, China, and South Korea, get back to normal while many parts of the U.S. remain on lockdown. We also have the highest coronavirus case counts and death counts in the world, which paints a gloomy picture of the country’s healthcare system and its leadership.
The pandemic has also highlighted a pattern of racial and economic discrimination in the medical community. Black and Latinx Americans remain more at risk than their white counterparts. Nationally, African Americans account for 22.1% of all COVID-19-related deaths, even though they only make up 12.4% of the population.
This all comes despite the U.S. paying more for care than any country in the world. According to 2019 data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, healthcare costs made up 17% of the U.S. gross domestic product.
Hope for the Future
Experts believe that it could get worse before it gets better, but the current crisis could propel the U.S. to systemic change for the better. Over 5.4 million Americans have already lost their health insurance due to COVID-19 and millions more could follow over the next few months. This will further limit the public’s access to healthcare, forcing them to forgo medical appointments or risk paying out of pocket.
These changes could alter the way we think about healthcare in this country. No one is immune to this deadly disease, which may convince more people to invest either in their own health or the country’s healthcare system at large. This may mean reducing the cost of care, making it easier for low-income and unemployed Americans to get insurance, and building up the country’s healthcare infrastructure.
For Joanne Kenen, executive editor for health care at Politico, she sees this as a potential turning point in American politics and culture. As she told PBS Newshour, “Things we thought were not possible six months ago might be possible now.”
As a provider, try your best to overcome skepticism and distrust of the medical system.