Socio-economic Status and Health Care Inequality

In most societies the socio-economic status of patients often affects the delivery and quality of care. This is most especially prevalent in a diverse and multicultural society where economic inequality exists. This paper tries to identify the socio-economic factors that affect quality of health care delivery in the American society.


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American families have an ultimate desire for optimum health among its members. Governments have provided measures to adequately provide opportunity to its constituents. However, in most societies, there is a direct association between social equality and the delivery of health care services.

Cassel (1976) has provided that the effect of social integration on health is conclusively documented in the theory of social support. Socio-economic factors such as poverty has long been equated with inequality in a society.

When such factors run through and affects the health of population, the situation would be detrimental to a society. Socio-economic status (SES) which is considered to be a major social basis for inequalities and socio-economic inequality resolutely affects the health and health behavior of people.

Most outcome indicators of health include mortality, morbidity and life expectancy in a given population that the World Health Organization (WHO, 2003) equates with the complete physical and mental well-being and not merely an absence of disease.

Income, living conditions, social environment and employment are known platforms for sustainable development that the WHO has also identified as a complex dimension with a relationship for such issues according to Kaplan,Pamuk, Lynch, Cohen (1996: 996).

With the various studies that has documented an association with income inequality and mortality; we are led to believe that socio-economic factors have a profound effect on the health of a population according to Kaplan et, al (996).

In the context of poor countries, millions of lives have perished due to socio-economic conditions where health care is not readily accessible to the low income class (Sholmo, White, Marmot, 1996: 1013).

Slow and unequal mobilization of health care is observed as economic and natural resources go scarce (1013). It is undeniable that where there is unequal economic growth, terrible poverty and health deprivation is also observed.

In the United States, ample medical care is provided as the government spent for at least $ 1.55 Trillion in 2002 alone according to the Human Development Report (2005). Of these huge spending, 35% were accounted for hospital services allocation where majority of bulk spending is determined according to the HDR (2005).

Moreover, hospitals get most of their capital from bond proceeds issued in behalf of the state, county and city finance in the tax-exempt bond markets. The rapid growth of managed care plans however has cause a dramatic change in the choices of patients.

Care plans restrict provider choices by patients, limit services and bargain with provider networks to obtain lower prices that were the basis of a study conducted by Cutler, McClellan, and Newhouse (2000: 526). Their study revealed that managed care plans have 30 to 40 percent lower expenditures than traditional health insurance plans in the case of treatment for heart disease (543).

They further pointed out that their findings suggest that medical care costs can be substantially reduced with little or no effect on the quality of care but are careful to question whether their findings generalize to the medical care system as a whole (546).