The Impact of Health Care Reform in Access to Health Services
Health care reform is a term used to denote main health policy changes so as to enhance health care delivery in a given area. It aims at raising the number of health care providers, improved access to health care, decreasing the cost of health care and broadening the population which will access the health care, especially through insurance programs (Freeman, 1999). This reform has been part and parcel of debates in national and international conferences. Some countries have introduced several reforms in their health sectors. These have had positive and negative impacts on the users of health care facilities. However, the negative impacts seem to outdo the positive impacts. This paper illustrates that health care reforms have reduced the access and utilization of health care facilities.
Health care reforms have inhibited access to health care, yet many people thought that they would increase the access. The government requires more money to support the reforms. Most of this money comes from taxation, which overburdens people when it comes to budgeting. For instance in the US, a move to raise taxes for high-income earners has increased the cost of living (Politzer, 2001). Many people prefer to buy medicine over-the-counter to avoid the high costs of medication in health facilities.
The location of a facility, proximity to providers of health care, amount of money charged as well as the severity of a disease largely determine access to and utilization of health care services. Health care reforms are usually introduced alongside other reforms such as constitutional reforms and reforms in the public service (Blumberg & Holahan, 2009). Reforms have not made significant changes in access to health care. If anything, they have reduced access by increasing the cost of health care. Government investments in health care still remain low. This has led to inadequacies in health care; for instance, lack of fully fledged laboratories, skilled human power as well as lack of supervision and motivation for health workers. This has adversely affected utilization of health care facilities.
There have been high populations visiting government hospitals in some countries where the costs of health care have gone down. This has led to delay in the provision of services (Politzer, 2001). Consequently, some people prefer to seek health services from private clinics, to avoid spending much time in these hospitals. Looking at the case of the United States of America, health care reforms have done more harm than good. Tax penalties for those who fail to get health insurance have not been received well among the poor and the middle-income earners.
Healthcare reforms across the world have also concentrated on provision of health services to people at a lower cost and ignore the causes of sicknesses among the population. In other words, most health care reforms put in place do not address the issue of lifestyle which in itself is the cause of sicknesses (Steinwachs & Hughes, 2010). It would be better if healthcare reforms concentrated on the causes of sicknesses by investing in research on lifestyles that are likely to cause diseases. This will ensure that less people fall sick frequently and thus lower the number of people who are seeking for medical attention at any one time. The continued emphasis on alleviating already existence problem of illness among the people undermines the general efforts of providing affordable medical services because people will keep on coming for treatment and the government and health care providers will continue having more expenses related to health care provision over the years. Insurance companies providing health care insurances are also forced to carry an extra burden of catering for people because they cannot turn down sick people seeking for their services. This is an indication that the health care reforms being implemented do not aim at reducing the incidences of sicknesses but rather formalizing the process of providing health care services at increased costs (Brindle, 2011).
Similarly, health care reforms do not address the issue of the youth. The youth form a substantial percentage of the population. However, most health care reforms in many countries target the older population forgetting that the youth also can fall sick. The recent health care reforms in the United States of America indicate that the youth will have the opportunity to remain on the health insurance plans of their parents until the age of 26 years. This might be challenging because some youth might have children before the age of 26 and therefore such children will not have health care insurance protection because their parents do not have health insurance of their own. The youth also do not have money or employment from where health insurance can deduct their contributions. The health care reforms do not address this issue, for instance by lowering the contributions of people who do not have formal employment or jobs (Brindle, 2011).
Health care reforms have also come with the challenges of deteriorating quality of services provided by health care centers. For instance, according to Association of American Medical Colleges, the recently enacted Act in the United States of America is expected to lead to an overall shortage of 91,500 and 130,600 active patient care physicians in 2020 and 2025 respectively. The primary care shortage of 45,400 and 65,800 physicians will be experienced within the same time period (Brindle, 2011). This is a big challenge to the health care industry given that most countries are already facing a shortage of doctors and physicians to provide health care services. The situation of health care services will thus become more deplorable and therefore more people will be seeking for health care services from private clinics and this will lead to escalation of medical costs in such clinics. In other countries, the shortage of physicians and doctors is a chronic problem hindering the provision of health care services as the government and the private sector cannot sufficiently provide resources and mechanisms to train enough physicians to meet the needs of the reformed health care systems in those countries. This therefore means that the reforms in the health care have mainly caused more problems in terms of shortages of medical practitioners as the demand for health services exceeds the supply of such services (Steinwachs & Hughes, 2010).
Universal access to healthcare is a principle used in the European health systems. Since the 1950s European countries have aimed at creation of equality in National Health Service as well as Social Health Insurance (Freeman, 1999). The notion of equal; access to healthcare by all individuals has been the principal goal in health politics. It implies that all people should have equal access to health care. What this means is that, all people should be able to access health facilities, and be given health services without discrimination. However, universal access today does not imply that all types of health care are available for customers freely, at their demand. This was discovered during the oil price shocks that rocked the European countries in the 1970s and 1990s, making control of expenditures a political agenda (Blumberg & Holahan, 2009). In the contemporary societies, health care has been discriminatory, with the rich being considered first when offering the services. The poor, who do not afford money to bribe physicians for fast services are side-lined, or have to wait for long durations in order to get the services.
My experience with health care expansion has been a negative one. On visiting several facilities, I find some with large numbers of people. This is good in the sense that it provides health care to a wide range of people. However, it is a waste of time for me as I have to follow the long queue to get medical services. Sometimes, these facilities lack adequate medicine, prompting me to buy drugs from chemists. This is contrary to what I expected from reforms. In essence, the reforms have not benefitted me much with regard to access of quality health services, and utilization of these facilities.