Health insurance system – the most expensive in the world – is worsening situation, researchers find, arguing healthcare should be treated as human right
Jessica Glenza in New York
Thursday 6 April 2017 18.33 EDT
You can’t buy time – except, it seems, in America.
Increasing inequality means wealthy Americans can now expect to live up to 15 years longer than their poor counterparts, reports in the British medical journal the Lancet have found.
Researchers said these disparities appear to be worsened by the American health system itself, which relies on for-profit insurance companies, and is the most expensive in the world.
Their conclusion? Treat healthcare as a human right.
The Lancet studies looked at how the American health system affects inequality and structural racism, and how mass incarceration and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, have changed public health.
Among the studies’ key findings: the richest 1% live up to 15 years longer than the poorest 1%; the same gap in life expectancy widened in recent decades, making poverty a powerful indicator for death; more than one-third of low-income Americans avoid medical care because of costs (compared to 7% in Canada and 1% in the UK); the poorest fifth of Americans pay twice as much for healthcare as a share of income (6% for the poor, versus 3.2% for the rich); and life expectancy would have grown 51.1% more from 1983 to 2005 had mass incarceration not accelerated in the mid-1980s.
The poorest Americans have suffered in particular, with life expectancies falling in some groups even while medicine has advanced.