Connecticut (CT) consistently ranks among the healthiest states in the country, yet not everyone in the state has the same opportunities to be as healthy as possible. Uninsured and underprivileged residents continually face worse health outcomes and encounter significant barriers to staying healthy. One such barrier is the convoluted and arduous task that has been made out of simple information gathering, leaving many residents lacking the knowledge of the services available to them or how to best utilize the ones they have. This obstacle has become ever the more apparent with the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act as this has lead to a reduction in the number of Connecticut’s uninsured by nearly 50 percent, with large swaths of underprivileged and minority groups gaining coverage. This reduction however has not led to a decrease in ethnic health disparities, a fact disturbingly noted in the statistics:
What You Need to Know
While coverage has been increasing thanks to advocacy groups like Connecticut Health Foundation and Access Heath CT, barriers such as education and language have made utilizing said coverage easier said than done for these people. Many do not understand what their coverage entails or are lead to believe in nonexistent shortcomings in their coverage. An example of this can be found in this hypothetical case study of Andrea and Mark below:
Case Study: Andrea and Mark
In order to examine the extent of the issue at play, we must get on the ground and into a realistic hypothetical.
Enter Andrea: A young 24-year-old woman who comes from a lower-middle-class background and who gets coverage via Molina (an ACA health insurance plan). Due to being a second-generation American and having knowledgeable parents, Andrea is aware that out-of-pocket expenses are virtually non-existent for preventative care under her coverage and thus readily schedules checkups and orders birth control medication when she needs it. Additionally, due to her education, she is also able to easily inquire about and take advantage of payment plans or discounts that healthcare providers offer for care that minimize her portion of the bill. As a result, she is able to stay on top of health issues and use the ACA and other state-sponsored efforts to their full potential.
In contrast, Mark is a 38-year-old man who also comes from a lower-middle-class background and who gets coverage via Expanded Medicaid. However, due to being a first-generation American with immigrant parents, Mark is forced to navigate the confusing system by himself and without a proper understanding of what much of the fine print means. This results in him believing that he must pay full price for prescription drugs and that he must pay larger fees than he feasibly can if he wants to schedule a checkup. These are items easily covered in the expanded plan he is under, but due to misinformation and oversight, Mark chooses to forgo checkups and “suck it up” when he gets sick, leading to worsening health and the exacerbating of minor injuries/diseases into larger problems, along with the lack of preventative screenings that can catch things like cancer and AIDs. Mark’s lack of understanding of his rights has left him suffering unnecessarily.
This gap in understanding is the problem I seek to respond to.
In order to address this issue, I believe that thoughtful consideration must be made to synthesis any response with the digital sphere. As a result, my response revolves around the creation of a hub that organizes and presents all the relevant healthcare information in an easily accessed and digested form. Organized into the different types of plans/coverage available, such a service would allow easy comparison and understanding of one’s choices. Additionally, a section with short videos explaining relevant terms/concepts would also be integral in order to bridge the information gap and preventing further exploitation of the misinformed. The penultimate addition however would be the resources section, as this would link individuals to services and facilities in the CT area that deal with or specializes in the type of coverage they seek, from walk-in clinics and community centers to urgent care and transportation services.
I believe that these efforts would be extremely impactful in terms of serving to educate and guide those in need to sources of information and services that will meet those needs. Of course, the viability of such a response would rest on the shoulders of its designers, a field I personally lack both the expertise and experience in. As a result, I have reached out to health advocacy groups in my area with my proposal in order to gauge the feasibility of such an endeavor on their ends, as much of their gathered data/resources would be featured in such a project. I have also spent time talking with doctors I know about what issues they run into when it comes to patient knowledge and incorporated their feedback into my proposed response. While my response is fairly limited to the Connecticut area, I hope that such a proposal (if implemented) would serve to inspire similar programs in the wider US to address inequality on a national scale. An upscaled website divided into the 50 states would be the ultimate goal in such a case. Much of my learning throughout the development of this project has been via the reading of reports of the issues many health advocacy groups seek to combat and the constraints that ineffective outreach poses on the fight. My response is thus an attempt to intensify the effectiveness of these more direct groups through providing information to the marginalized groups in question.
I’d love to hear from you all as to any thoughts you have regarding my proposal.
In the comments below, please tell me:
- Do you know if your community faces similar problems? If so, how have they tackled them?
- Do you have any ideas/thoughts about my response and/or how to improve it?
Share away! I’d love to incorporate any useful comments into an updated proposal!
Here is a link to my bibliography, please feel free to check out some of the advocacy groups I referenced in my area!