Kairos Quick Facts on Health
By Tony Eskridge and Shailly Gupta Barnes
Health Care and Health Outcomes for the Poor
- An estimated 250,000 people die from poverty and inequality every year (700 people everyday).
- While the U.S. spends more on health care than other rich countries, it has the lowest life expectancy, highest chronic disease burden, highest suicide rates and the highest rate of avoidable deaths among those countries.
- Before the pandemic, approximately 87 million people were uninsured or underinsured. Currently, over 4.3 million people lack health coverage because 12 states have refused to expand Medicaid, and 15 million more might lose their Medicaid coverage when the public health emergency ends.
- Over 43 million people, or one in seven Americans, participate in SNAP, while one in six people eligible for SNAP remain unenrolled in the program.
- Before the pandemic, 14 million households could not afford water. Now that pandemic-era water shut-off moratoriums have ended, 218 million people – or 67% of the US population – are vulnerable to losing their access to water.
- Over 75% of people getting an abortion are poor or low-income.
- During the pandemic, low-income adults experienced some of the highest rates of depression and anxiety in the nation.
- Every year, almost 50,000 people die from opioid overdose. These deaths are concentrated in poor and low-income communities. Nearly 60% of people with opioid use disorder are uninsured or on Medicaid.
Denial of Healthcare
- In 2018, there were 87 million people who were uninsured or underinsured.
- During the pandemic, 6 million workers lost their employer sponsored insurance. Factoring in family members, closer to 12 million people lost health insurance.
- 42% of uninsured immigrants are undocumented and nearly 60% of people in the Medicaid coverage gap are people of color.
- 75% of low-wealth people who have insurance coverage still cut back on basic necessities to pay for medical expenses.
- Nearly half of rural hospitals have a negative operating margin, and nearly 25% of rural hospitals (over 450) are on the verge of closing. Of those that remain, 62% do not have ICU beds.
Poverty and the Pandemic
- During the pandemic, the poorest communities experienced a COVID death rate twice as high as the richest communities. During the deadliest waves of the pandemic, the death rates were 3, 4.5, and sometimes 5 times as high.
- The poorest counties with the highest death rates have double the uninsurance rates and a larger population of cost-burdened renters than richer counties.
- If the United States had in place a universal health care system, at least 330,000 lives could have been saved from COVID-19 related deaths.
- At the height of the pandemic in 2020, 30-40 million people were at risk of eviction
- During the first two years of the pandemic, families had their power cut off more than 3.6 million times. This data is vastly underreported.
- 100 million people do not have access to paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, and 46% of workers are not guaranteed unpaid, job-protected leave
- Low-wage workers are more likely to not have access to paid sick and personal leave than any other group.
Disability and Long COVID
- In 2021, 1.2 million more people identified as having a disability than in 2020.
- As many as 14 million people and counting are developing years-long or lifelong disabilities from their COVID infection. Employers are laying off these workers with little to no safety net to catch them.
- LGBTQ+ people are more likely to have a disability, including 40% of transgender folks. These intersecting identities lead to higher cases of health and housing discrimination.
- The American people hold over $195 billion in medical debt, and medical debt is the number one reason for household bankruptcy in the US. Poor, historically oppressed and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses are most likely to be burdened with medical debt.
- Over one-third (37%) of people with medical bill issues used up all their savings to pay for their medical bills. Nearly two-thirds (63%) avoided or delayed medical care for fear of the cost.
- Out-of-pocket costs have doubled in the past 20 years, from $193 billion in 2000 to 388 billion in 2020. Deductible payments have grown 10 times faster than inflation from 2007 to 2017. The average out of pocket spending for COVID related care was $788 for privately insured people.
- Big hospitals engaging in predatory billing practices seek over $71 million from patients too poor to afford life saving care.
This is why the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has been calling on Congress to do the following to secure the human right to health:
- Expand Medicaid and Protect Medicare as public goods
- Establish a universal, single payer healthcare system that provides healthcare to all, regardless of income, disability, prior health conditions, employment status, immigration or carceral status
- Move federal resources and capacity towards rural hospitals, prioritizing hospitals in poor, low-income, rural and native communities.
- Increase resources for Indian Health Services
- Expand veterans health care
- Establish a federal relief fund to end all medical debt, especially for poor and low-income people
- Secure the right to housing by stopping all evictions, building public housing, and ensuring the costs of housing are within the income abilities of every household
- Institute a moratorium on all shut-offs; turn the water and lights back on; and relieve water and utilities debt
Resources for additional study: