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The Failure of Health Care Urban America Essay

According to one of the videos which had compared the United States health care system to that of other countries such as France and Canada, we are ranked a whopping 37th in the nation when it comes to our health care system. I think it would be fair to say that that sounds pretty accurate considering that there are 47 million people uninsured in the United States, but that is not something to be proud about. However, if you have money in the United States or are just simply insured, then there is no other country that could possibly provide you with better health care opportunities. Sadly, this is not an option for families like the Banes.

When your employers lack any form of health coverage, when you are living in a neighborhood that is considered the newest and poorest ghetto, when you are denied any rights to health care unless you are damn near death and you are left to care for people who continue suffering from not just one, but rather several health disparities, you are surely guaranteed a rough life. Jackie Banes is living proof of this as she cares for her husband Robert whose kidneys failed, her grandmother Cora Jackson who has to cope with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetes which eventually leads to the amputation of both of her legs, her father Tommy who is left with disabilities from a stroke, and her three children, one of which failed to get immunization for the measles.

Health care is treated as a commodity available to those who can afford it, rather than a public good like education (Abraham 12). Robert Banes avoided getting preventive care until his kidneys had reached the point of no return simply because he could not afford to pay for the medical expenses. Our health care system is really sending out the message that if you are not insured, you are not going to receive proper care unless you are truly about to die.

In one lecture based on Community Health and Minorities, the initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic minorities in health is discussed. Delivering care to racial and ethnic minority communities was one of the principles stated in that document. This document does not seem to be very fulfilling seeing as African Americans are leading in infant mortality, diabetes mortality, HIV disease, homicide, cancer mortality, stroke mortality, and heart disease mortality just to name some. In addition to that, the incidence of kidney failure among blacks is four times that among whites. African Americans suffer strokes at twice the rate of whites. On the West Side of Chicago, including North Lawndale, well over half of the population dies before the age of sixty-five (Abraham 19). Among the contributing factors to these deaths are: heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Jackies grandmother, Cora Jackson, is for the most part insured by Medicare. They pick up the bill for most of her medical expenses, but when it comes to other things that chronically ill people may need such as medications or adult diapers, they do not. Unfortunately, Medicare only covers services or supplies that are medically needed. Even though adult diapers can prevent bedsores and allow people to get out of their homes, it is still considered a convenience. If not for Sister Mary Ellen, Jackie may have never known that it is Medicaid whom covers the expense for the diapers that her grandmother needs.

Chapter seven discusses Mount Sinais willingness to treat the poor, but also why treating the poor is bad for business. The hospital may lose a couple million dollars a year on trauma, but were the community hospital. It is not an acceptable alternative to stop serving the community, says Mount Sinais chief executive Benn Greenspan. Excellent equipment and facilities should be made available for the whole community, the well-to-do, the poor and those in moderate circumstance (Abraham 116). However, Mount Sinai began going downhill when Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965. It required that hospitals be paid at cost for providing care to the elderly and poor, with no cushion for bad debt or other overhead expenses. Such a reimbursement scheme was feasible for hospitals in middle-class and well-to-do areas.

These institutions could raise the prices of commercially insured patients to subsidize the care of the small number of uninsured or publicly insured patients they treated. Hospitals such as Mount Sinai had fewer private shoulders to carry the load of charity care and more of that burden to bear (Abraham 124). We cannot be that noble as to provide care to all the people who cannot pay anything. We would not be able to stay open if we did, said Dr. Levitt, dean of Chicago Medical School. If the United States were to just change to universal health care, then it may have possibly turned things around in a positive way.

One of the videos stated that 500 emergency rooms in the United States have closed. This includes three hospitals along with two community health centers on the West Side of Chicago leaving fewer institutions open for access in poor neighborhoods. Since then, emergency rooms have been in high demand like that of Mount Sinai where members of the Banes family must frequently visit. From 1987 to 1990, emergency rooms crowds have grown from about 32,000 patients up to 39,000 patients. Mount Sinai is one of only six remaining hospitals in Chicagos trauma network (Abraham 94).

The Banes family had a very rough time trying to get adequate health care for all of their disparities. They were employed, of course by those who did not offer any kind of coverage, so is that still their fault that they were denied any preventive care? What about their children? Referring back to my own notes, most people (especially government) believe that it is necessary to have a stable income before you choose to have children, but that is not the childs fault. Because of this, many children are reaped of the ability to have proper health care which sometimes results in death.

In many other countries, universal health care has been the answer. Though they may have to wait a longer amount of time to receive certain procedures, they still seem to be satisfied with where their health care system stands, whereas in the United States, not very many people can say that they are satisfied. According to our lecture on Health Care System, the costs for health care are going to continue to rise dramatically and millions more people will either be inadequately insured or completely uninsured as a result of this. Referring back to other countries, Canada guarantees everyone free health care along with universal child care, where each child under age six puts a hundred dollars per month towards their families income. Canadians pay a third less to doctors, less for prescriptions and cut paperwork all in the hopes of saving money.

It works and as a result of that, they save two billion dollars per year. Also, according to the videos Frances Day Care System and French System Lowers Poverty and Illness Level for Kids, we learned that France has a variety of policies and programs which benefit their children. They believe that investing in their children is similar to investing in that countrys future, whereas the United States does not have policies and programs like that of France because we are too worried about the costs. If the United States does not start look to other alternatives to improve our health care system, whether it be by making it accessible to everyone, lowering costs, or providing high quality; then families like the Banes are going to continue to suffer.


Abraham, Laurie. “Mama Might Be Better Off Dead.” 1993.

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