More people in the US than ever before are covered by some form of health care insurance, resulting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “ObamaCare. In 2010 there were 49 million people uninsured in the US, and that number is now down to about 42 million. While this is good news, there are issues. One of the reasons having health insurance is such a good thing is that people with coverage see doctors more often, often uncovering early-stage illnesses which can be treated with better outcomes and at lower cost. And one of the very good things about the Affordable Care Act is that insurance companies cannot deny applicants based on previously existing conditions.
Yet a recent story in the New York Times showed that many people are struggling to meet the deductibles or out-of-pocket costs of their newly acquired health insurance coverage.
Another issue is access, or the ability to get an appointment with a doctor, in the first place. As millions of citizens now try to access the health care delivery system, a recent survey by Merritt Hawkins showed that wait times or delays are getting longer and more challenging.
Affordability and access are two critical issues in healthcare system in the United States, and in every country around the world. In many countries, these two issues drive many consumers to seek care elsewhere, a phenomenon known as cross-border healthcare, medical tourism or international medical travel.
It remains to be seen if increasing out-of-pocket costs (poor affordability) and increasing difficulties securing appointments with doctors (poor access) will continue to grow and if these will drive US consumers to seek more affordable, readily available high-quality services elsewhere.