Over 27 million people across the United States lack coverage, which can reduce testing and treatment.
The substantial US health insurance gaps that remain across the country could feed the spread of the novel coronavirus. As about 9 percent of the American population – around 27 million people – lack a health plan, testing and treatment comes with a cost they may not be able to afford.
Without coverage people may delay going to get tested or treated or they may not do it at all.
In the state of California alone, 7.5 percent of the population – 3 million people – are uninsured. The health insurance gaps there – as in other states – will force many people to have to choose between their financial wellness and their ability to get tested or treat the disease if they have it. This opens up the American public to a substantial risk from reduced and absent diagnoses and treatments.
As of the writing of this article, there have been hundreds of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States with the number of cases rising rapidly. As the spread continues, it is inevitable that it will reach people who are without health plans. Experts say that this will have a serious impact on the speed of the virus’ spread. According to Stephen Shortell, a health policy and management expert interviewed by Berkeley News, the substantial number of uninsured people, combined with the mix of private and public coverage, may propel the virus spread forward.
Financial access to medical care problem as a result of the US health insurance gaps.
The current healthcare system leaves many people unable to afford the care they require. Shortell is a distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management Emeritus and dean emeritus at the School of Public Health at Berkeley. He also serves as the Center for Healthcare Organizational Innovation Research (CHOIR) co-director as well as for the Center for Lean Engagement and Research in Healthcare (CLEAR).
Shortell also explained that this has not been a challenge faced by other countries in the midst of major COVID-19 outbreaks such as South Korea and Italy. Individuals living in most other developed countries and many others affected by the outbreak don’t struggle from a lack of healthcare access due to financial reasons, he said. He added that financial health coverage isn’t necessarily an issue during an initial infectious disease outbreak. However, he added that the main area of concern with the US health insurance gap is that it can accelerate the spread because of a delay in testing as a result of the expense. This is an additional challenge and complication the United States will face that hasn’t yet been seen in other affected countries.