The United States Leads Other Nations In Differences By Income In Perceptions Of Health And Health Care
Author: Joachim O. Hero, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Robert J. Blendon
We examined income gaps in the period 2011–13 in self-assessments of personal health and health care across thirty-two middle- and high-income countries. While high-income respondents were generally more positive about their health and health care in most countries, the gap between them and low-income respondents was much bigger in some than in others. The United States has among the largest income-related differences in each of the measures we studied, which assessed both respondents’ past experiences and their confidence about accessing needed health care in the future. Relatively low levels of moral discomfort over income-based health care disparities despite broad awareness of unmet need indicate more public tolerance for health care inequalities in the United States than elsewhere. Nonetheless, over half of Americans felt that income-based health care inequalities are unfair, and these respondents were significantly more likely than their compatriots to support major health system reform—differences that reflect the country’s political divisions. Given the many provisions in the Affordable Care Act that seek to reduce disparities, any replacement would also require attention to disparities or risk taking a step backward in an area where the United States is in sore need of improvement.