Why Are Doctors and Hospitals Leaving Neighborhoods That Need Healthcare The Most?
Healthcare providers are pulling out of poor inner-city neighborhoods where the sickest populations live.
There is a huge health inequality in America. Adults who live in lower socioeconomic areas in the U.S. are a lot more likely to be in poor health than those in more affluent communities. According to a recent report, people with lower socioeconomic status experience heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental illness, and other health problems at a higher rate than others. Americans who are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are three times as likely to experience premature death than those at the top.1
There are many reasons for this disparity in health among the rich and poor. For those people just scraping by, going to the doctor might seem like a luxury. Another reason for the difference is a lack of insurance coverage. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 made health care more accessible to a lot of people who previously lacked coverage. However, there are still significant holes in the system that limit the benefit of this program. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of Medicaid expansion. This decision left more than four million people without adequate coverage.2 Recent cuts to tax credits will put Obamacare plans even further out of reach for many people.3
One of the biggest reasons why America’s poor struggle with health problems more often is because they lack access to high-quality health care. Family doctors, clinics, and hospitals are the cornerstone of health care. However, more than 60 million Americans don’t have a primary care doctor.4 This is because there have been more and more health providers abandoning poor neighborhoods. Coincidentally, these are the areas that need their services the most.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently analyzed data from the largest United States cities. They found that people in poor neighborhoods were less healthy than their more affluent neighborhoods. They were also more likely to live in areas where hospitals had closed down and physicians had left.5
The Journal Sentinel reports that health care providers have been following patients who are privately insured to more affluent areas instead of staying in communities that have the greatest need for high-quality health care.6 According to the Association of Health Care Journalists, the number of hospitals operating in the 52 largest cities had fallen from 781 in 1970 to 426 in 2014.7
The fact that hospitals and doctors have been leaving poorer communities at a high rate is terrible for both the residents who have been abandoned and the providers who are leaving. This leaves low-income neighborhoods without a safety net. It is also unfortunate for providers as they are losing an opportunity to treat patients who need it the most.
So, what things can help improve health care access in poor communities? One of the biggest obstacles to care is the cost of treatment. The United States has notoriously high healthcare costs. Healthcare in the U.S. is nearly twice as expensive as in any other developed country.8
One of the main reasons for the high cost of healthcare are the administrative costs of running a practice.9 As a health care provider or administrator, you’ve probably encountered plenty of examples of unnecessary administrative costs— from rejected insurance claims to complex medical billing practices. These things add to the high price tag of healthcare in the U.S.
Lowering the administrative costs of providing healthcare can help more hospitals and providers stay in areas that need health care the most. A good healthcare coding and billing partner is one way to reduce the burden of high practice costs. Choosing the right billing service lets providers focus more on providing care to those who need it most and less on paperwork. At Lightspeed Revenue Cycle Management, we offer an efficient and cost-effective billing and coding solution for healthcare providers and hospitals. Contact us today to learn more.