“Good health — like wealth — does not trickle down the economic ladder” … My article on health inequality and a disturbing recent study online in Jacobin.
Racism mars the history of health care in America. For years, black patients were relegated to separate — and appallingly unequal — hospitals and wards. Many were simply denied medical attention, either “dumped” into the care of other facilities or turned away at the hospital door … An Op-Ed by me and Vijay Das of Public Citizen at CNN.com today.
In a recent piece in the New York Times (“Can You Afford Your Medicine? Doctors Don’t Ask”), Allison Bond – a medical student in Boston – poignantly tells the heartbreaking stories of patients who lack the money to afford copayments for prescriptions or doctors visits. She describes, for instance, a mother and two daughters – recent immigrants from East Asia – who she meets at an appointment with their pediatrician. The children have signs of growth retardation from malnutrition, evidence of the family’s poverty. When the mother is told of the $20 copayment, she breaks into tears, knowing she will be unable to afford a return visit.
Increasingly, the problem of health care “prices” is replacing the problem of health care “costs.” That may sound like a meaningless distinction, but consider the opening sentence of the “Cost of Treatment May Influence Doctors,” an article in todays New York Times:
“Saying they can no longer ignore the rising prices of health care, some of the most influential medical groups in the nation are recommending that doctors weigh the costs, not just the effectiveness of treatments, as they make decisions about patient care.”
The focus, in other words, is not only society-wide health care costs as a percentage of GDP, but the price of particular interventions for particular patients. The very premise of this lead, however, is both entirely unremarkable and extraordinarily concerning.