Is Providing Healthcare Coverage Enough? Policymakers Are Starting to See Why Not
There is a lot more to healthcare than we are led to believe. When the government talks about healthcare, its entire focus is on providing people with the right kind of insurance coverage so that they are able to adequately cover their medical expenditure throughout the year.
When the government thinks in the long-term, it is thinking about the aging population in the US and how packages like Medicare, which aim to provide coverage to those above the age of 65, need to be amended considering the changing dynamics.
But what policymakers of the past did not focus on were the factors which impacted healthcare in the US. In the past, the only component which determined how much funding had to be poured into Medicare was the increasing proportion of 65+ individuals in the total population.
And since we generally have an aging population in the US, it is generally understood that our Medicare expenditure will only increase. However, now policymakers have started to consider other factors which may increase that expenditure much more than initially anticipated.
Other Factors That Impact Health
The Joint Economic Committee has members from both the main political parties in the US, but the Republicans who are part of that Committee released a report on 24th January 2019 highlighting the issue of aging alone. In a nutshell, this issue is all about the changing dynamics of American society, more specifically about how older people today have much fewer people to take care of them as compared to older people a couple of decades ago.
Statistically speaking, the report offers many great insights into the change our social construct has undergone in the past 20 years or so. If we rewind back to 1994, 75% of the population in the 61-63 age bracket were living with a spouse or a partner, compared to only 69% back in 2014.
Moreover, the proportion of this population that attended church almost weekly decreased to 41% from 56%. And most importantly, in 2014 only 55% of people in this age group had children living in a 10-mile radius of their residence compared to 68% of people two decades earlier.
Findings of the report also declared that this adult population did not have as many social connections, such as close friends or other relatives, in their neighborhoods or close proximity as compared to people in the same bracket back in 1994.
Why is all this relevant? Because ultimately, as the report rightly points out, such social factors can lead to a heavy burden on health coverage packages such as Medicaid as well as Medicare as these factors can result in adults demanding paid rehabilitation, hospice services, and/or other forms of long-term care support, from the government.
Who Will Take Care Of Them?
Naturally, if and when these adults won’t have anyone from their own family or circle of friends to take care of them in sickness, it is the government that would have to provide them with someone who would. This is going to cost the government a lot of money, something that, so far, has reportedly not been accounted for by the government.
As of now, the Medicaid program is looking into including some estimates of these non-medical needs, such as ensuring that patients also have adequate housing, food, and transportation. North Carolina witnessed the start of a pilot program that focused on providing patients with support more tailored to their individual needs that extended beyond their medical requirements.
Of course, Medicaid is not and cannot provide people directly with funds to improve their non-medical issues (as that falls outside the jurisdiction of the program); however, it is the first step in recognizing the importance and the impact of these non-medical issues on the medical needs of an individual.
Ultimately, by taking a more holistic approach to providing people with adequate support once they’ve aged, policymakers would find themselves better equipped with the changing needs of the population, especially when it comes to planning health insurance coverage plans such as Medicare.
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