While everyone in the United States has the right to access medical care, it’s long been a problem that money plays a pivotal role in the kind of care received. Two people with the same conditions may not receive the same care because one can’t afford the medical visits while the other pays for extra services to get better, faster care.
The disparity between the rich and poor when seeking medical care is enough that it actually results in those with lower incomes having reduced lifespans compared to those who live wealthy lives. Data shows that even though medical advances have made helping people easier, the gap in income still plays a role in determining who lives and dies.
Living in poverty? Expect a shorter life
Research from the Social Security Administration states that in the 1970s, a man who was in the top half of earnings could expect a life approximately 1.2 years longer than someone of the same age who earned in the bottom half. Today, that is no longer the case. Instead, those at the top are likely to live an average of 5.8 years longer than poorer counterparts.
What causes the disparity in lifespan between the wealthy and lower earners?
Poor care could play a role. People who have to go to community clinics and sliding-scale offices may find long waits and overworked medical providers who ignore a patient’s issues or misdiagnose them in a rush. Patients may choose to avoid going to the doctor because of the risk of not getting the care they need or because they can’t afford the tests required for diagnosis. Some medical providers may give out pain medications to lower-income patients. Sometimes, when it comes down to living with pain or eating, those medications get sold off and contribute to the prescription drug epidemic.
These are only a few possible reasons for the differences between the poor and wealthy in the United States. It’s hoped that with time, the disparity can be reduced.