Connecticut has some of the highest and lowest ranked hospitals in the nation. A recent report ranked Sharon, Stamford, and Greenwich Hospital among the highest in the country. Rockville General, Charlotte Hungerford, and Bridgeport Hospital are on the opposite end of the spectrum. These hospitals are ranked based on mortality rate, safety of care, readmissions rate, patient experience, and timely and effective care. Clearly Connecticut has an enormous gap in care.
Bridgeport is about thirty minutes from Greenwich so why are there such disparities in health care between these two hospitals? If we zoom in even closer, to Fairfield and Bridgeport which are neighboring towns, we can see this gap in many other ways. In Fairfield, the median income is $139,000 compared to Bridgeport where it is only $46,000. Life expectancy in Bridgeport stands at 77 years compared to Fairfield which stands at 82 years. Furthermore, Bridgeport has one of the highest infant death rates in the state with 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. While the socioeconomic disparities of the region are correlated with the disparate health outcomes, barriers in access to care broaden this gap.
Socioeconomic disparities such as access to stable housing, employment, literacy and linguistic fluency, environmental hazards, and transportation all impact access to care. Bridgeport residents face these disparities and they are also more likely to be uninsured than their neighbors. Many people reported they do not have coverage because it was not offered through their job. In 2019, 73.7% of uninsured adults said they were uninsured because the cost of coverage was too high. Bridgeport residents are working people who often have families and yet 19% of Bridgeport residents were uninsured in 2019, compared to Connecticut as a whole where only 8% of the state was uninsured. The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, was supposed to make affordable health insurance available to more people, however, there are still health insurance gaps and many go uninsured.
Because our country does not provide guaranteed access to public health insurance, income and employment status drive differences in access to healthcare as we see between Fairfield and Bridgeport. The lack of adequate health insurance impacts the likelihood of getting preventative screenings, affordability of life-saving medicines, and the affordability of high quality housing. For those with access to healthcare, attending regular doctor’s appointments can prevent having to deal with expensive hospital visits later on. A recent report from The Yale School of Medicine explains how healthcare in this country is in crisis; the system consistently fails to address health disparities and contributes to poor health outcomes. At the root of this crisis is America’s refusal to provide universal access to quality healthcare. Instead, many families are left to afford costly medical care on their own, accruing medical debt, which can cascade to a number of other problems, including more debt, high stress, hunger, homelessness, and poor physical and mental health.
How can this problem be solved?
Local health activists at The Yale School of Medicine are joining national figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders in calling for Medicare for All. Providing affordable, and quality health care is a long-term investment in human capital. This proposal would expand Medicare coverage to include dental, hearing, vision, in- and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, and prescription drugs among much more. Additionally, there would be no networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays and no surprise bills. Annie Harper from the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health explains that eliminating the cost of medical care, and in particular the medical debt that millions incur, would improve health outcomes for millions of people and save the U.S. money.
Many people struggle to fulfill their basic health needs and we see that struggle within Bridgeport. Providing Medicare for All would help close the health gap between Fairfield and Bridgeport. It would protect Bridgeport residents from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets and reduce the risk of being pushed into poverty because unexpected illness that requires people to use up their life savings. Just as we have seen increases in life expectancy at birth and healthy life expectancy in countries that have achieved universal health care, we can expect the same improvements here if we pass similar legislation. This is vital to Bridgeport residents as it would give children a different life right from the start.
Health care is a human right and America should view it as such. Connecticut can act as the pioneers of this notion and implement Medicare for All to show its benefits to the rest of America.
Jordan Italia is a junior at Sacred Heart University, pursuing a degree in Health Science with a concentration in Global Health and minor in Spanish.