Most of us know that as of the latest count, 47 million people in the United States were uninsured. However, what's not as well known is that a patient's insurance status can substantially affect the treatment he or she receives.
Studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of physicians admit to making adjustments to their clinical decisions based on what kind of insurance (or lack of insurance) a patient has. Some of these adjustments are relatively minor: two generic drugs that replicate the effect of one brand name drug at a fraction of the cost. But some of them are far more dramatic, such as surgeons being more willing to put off surgeries on underinsured patients, or not recommending procedures such as colonoscopies that they would recommend to identical patients with insurance.
These decisions result in patients without insurance having much lower survival rates of more treatable cancers, such as breast cancers, and a mortality rate nearly 50 percent greater from chronic problems like diabetes and health disease. Clearly, there needs to be a solution to these problems, whether it's somehow reducing the prejudice that doctors are consciously or unconsciously showing toward the uninsured, or more likely getting a substantial portion of these people insurance so that doctors won't have to worry about patients affording treatment.
To learn more about this problem:
- Read this Washington Post piece