Everyone ends up paying for health injustices

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Health inequalities account for US$320 billion in health care expenditures annually, rising to US$1 trillion by 2040

Inequities in the US healthcare system cost everyone in society, according to a Deloitte report.

These health inequalities, which today account for about $320 billion in annual healthcare spending, are projected to grow to $1 trillion by 2040 if left unaddressed. This means the average American’s cost would go from $1,000 a year to at least $3,000 a year, according to the report.

Inequalities affect individuals’ ability to achieve health and well-being, and costs have a greater impact on historically underserved populations. The healthcare sector is under pressure to reduce healthcare spending while improving the quality of care. Persistent health inequalities have important implications for health outcomes and spending.

“The costs to the industry are already at crisis levels and if left unaddressed, the cost trajectory could lead to an even greater number of unaffordable bills and a drop in health and productivity for all. It is critical that we act now to change that trajectory towards a better, more equitable future of health for all,” said Neal Batra, Director, Life Sciences and Healthcare, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Deloitte analyzed several high-cost diseases to determine the proportion of spending that could be attributed to health inequalities today and projected that spending to 2040, taking into account population and per capita spending changes.

The report finds that removing barriers to health equity can have positive impacts on outcomes, quality of life and greater health and well-being for individuals and communities. However, it requires action by industry leaders with intent in designing, rebuilding trust, partnerships, measuring and eliminating inequalities at the individual and community levels.

“Two things are critical in this analysis. First, health inequalities affect everyone, directly or indirectly. Second, this problem is too big for one institution and organization to solve alone. Deliberate collaboration is required to solve this,” said Andy Davis, director, healthcare practice, Deloitte Consulting, in a statement.

That is what the report recommends HHealthcare stakeholders – business leaders, payers and boards – should take action now to mitigate future impacts, as they cannot afford to ignore health inequities. A truly equitable future of health with interoperable data, easy access, empowered people, trust, well-being, focus and scientific breakthroughs can be possible if these actions are pursued:

  1. Be intentional: Stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem should be mindful of the future of health and continually concerned about equity.
  2. enter into partnerships: Current stakeholders cannot solve this alone. The scale and complexity of the problem are too great.
  3. Measure progress: An accessible, platform-independent and inclusive data and technology infrastructure coupled with representative data collection, key performance indicators and ongoing assessment will be required to define progress in tackling health equity.
  4. Remove individual and community barriers: To promote health equity, non-medical drivers of health and barriers to quality care at both individual and community levels, such as health and digital literacy and care infrastructure, should be eliminated.
  5. Building up trust: Trust throughout the system, from individual practitioners to institutions in data and technology, is key. It will be important to consciously restore trust with people and communities by understanding needs, enhancing experiences and building a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

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