The United States, like many countries, has a long list of reforms that are needed. Immigration reform, budgetary reform, surveillance reform, education reform — the list is endless. Healthcare reform is predictably on that list; not even simply health insurance reform, which has its own laundry list of problems and solutions as anything that large and complicated is apt to. But U.S. healthcare itself is systematically challenged in a number of key ways. For a quick update on what main areas the U.S. healthcare system needs work, here’s just five glances into America’s flawed system.
1. Mental Health Services
A 2013 report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) stated that suicide is number ten on the list of leading causes of death in America, and that ranking goes up to three for those between 15 and 24. Seen above, a suicide call for help button is installed on Gold Gate Bridge in California, where a sign nearby reads: “Crisis Counseling: There is hope, make the call. The consequences of jumping from the bridge are fatal and tragic.” Over 90 percent of suicides have mental health disorders.
Above, a homeless man sleeps on the street in Los Angeles where homeless numbers are particularly high. According to NAMI, 26 percent of homeless adults “live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46 percent live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.” The main issue here being that despite the heavy presence of mental illness and related problems, treatment is not available enough or affordable enough to meet the needs. The NAMI reports that 60 percent of adults and almost 50 percent of eight to fifteen year-olds with mental illnesses were not the recipeints of treatment in the year prior to the study. It also reports an enormous delay between symptom onset and treatment.
2. VA Healthcare
Above is shown Jean Somers and her husband Howard Somers as they testify on their son’s suicide after he returned from Iraq in front of the Veteran Affairs Committee in D.C. It has become only too clear this year that the American government and health system has failed veterans. Given news of deadly wait times for veterans both new and old and an internal audit showed major reform needs within the system, it’s only too fair to put VA healthcare near the top of our list of problems. Below we see U.S. Army Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan who holds his many prescription bottles up for the camera prior to attending the “Winter Solider” summit. Doctors from the Veteran Affairs have prescribed him the drugs shown, held up next to his Purple Heart, Commendation Medals, Combat Action Badge, and two Bronze Stars.
3. Underpaid Healthcare Workers
Stepping back for the moment from patient care, many issues with healthcare forget to take into account that workers in the medical field are often underpaid, understaffed, and overstressed. Above is pictured Mary Soto, a full-time dental assistant who relies on food stamps in Austin, Texas. True, doctors in the United States are payed considerably better than in other countries comparatively, but education costs and student loan debt in the U.S. are also much higher. What’s more, pay affects treatment in many cases. As Mark Pearson, head of Division on Health Policy at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) told PBS, “payments that mean that physicians get paid more if they do more interventions, regardless of medical necessity” result in over testing and over treating.
4. Overprescription of Drugs
Many argue that the U.S. tends to overprescribe in its healthcare system, whether we’re talking about mental health issues, such as prescriptions for ADHD, or antibiotics. A study of prescription antibiotics in 2010 conducted by the CDC found that 4 out of 5 Americans could have had prescriptions for antibiotics based on the numbers being seen. This suggested a possible overuse of antibiotics and increases the danger of drug resistant bacteria, according to the NY Daily News.
ADHD is a rather controversial item, made so by the absolute importance of recognizing that some children and adults suffer from mental health concerns necessitating medication. However, many point to the increase, especially in children, of diagnosis and have voiced concerns that in the U.S. especially, prescription solutions are to0 often resorted to and over-diagnosis might be occurring. The CDC reports that since 1997 the rate of ADHD diagnosis have increased by 3 percent per year up until 2003, after which the diagnosis average increased by 5 percent every year until 2011.
5. Unaffordable Healthcare
Healthcare in the United States is expensive — very expensive, and health insurance doesn’t always make a dent in the money problems some families face when all is said and done. Above, Jesse Quesada is pictured holding his son at a free clinic in Oakland, California, back in 2013. Below, a young girl is given a free check up in Los Angeles Mission’s ‘skid row’ this month, just prior to school starting up.
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Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS