Report underscores negative impact of health inequities on entire health care system

Inequities in the U.S. health care system cost everyone in society according to a report from Deloitte.1

These health inequities that account for approximately $320 billion in annual health care spending today, are projected to increase to $1 trillion by 2040 if not addressed. This means the cost to the average American would rise from $1,000 per year to at least $3,000 annually, according to the report.

Inequities impact the ability for every individual to achieve health and well-being and the costs have greater impact on historically underserved populations. The health care sector is under pressure to reduce health care spending while increasing quality of care. Persistent health inequities have a substantial impact on health outcomes and spending.

"Costs are already at a crisis level for the industry, and if left unaddressed, the trajectory of costs could result in an even greater number of unaffordable bills and declining health and productivity for everyone. It's critical that we act now to change this trajectory to achieve a better, more equitable future of health for all,” said Neal Batra, principal, life sciences and health care, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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

The report states that removing barriers to health equity can have a positive impact on outcomes, quality of life, and the greater health and well-being of individuals and communities. However, it will require action by industry leaders with intentionality in design, rebuilding trust, partnerships, measurement, and addressing individual and community level inequities.

"There are two things of critical importance in this analysis. First, health inequity impacts everyone, directly or indirectly. Second, this problem is too great for one institution and organization to solve by itself. Solving this will require intentional collaboration,” said Andy Davis, principal, health care practice, Deloitte Consulting, in a statement.

The report recommends that health care stakeholders — business leaders, payers, and boards — should take action now to mitigate future consequences because they can't afford to ignore health inequity. A truly equitable future of health with interoperable data, easy access, empowered people, trust, well-being, focus, and scientific breakthroughs may be possible if these actions are pursued:

  1. Be intentional: Stakeholders across the health care ecosystem should approach the future of health with intentionality and engage in continuous thinking on equity.
  2. Form partnerships: Current stakeholders can't solve this on their own. The magnitude and complexity of the problem is too significant.
  3. Measure progress: Accessible, platform-agnostic, and inclusive data and technology infrastructure paired with representative data collection, key performance indicators, and ongoing evaluation will be necessary to define progress in tackling health equity.
  4. Address individual and community-level barriers: To advance health equity, non-medical drivers of health and barriers to quality care at both the individual and community level — such as health and digital literacy and care infrastructure — should be eliminated.
  5. Engender trust: Trust across the system, from individual practitioners to institutions in data and technology, is crucial. It will be important to rebuild trust with people and communities intentionally by understanding needs, improving experiences, and building a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Reference

1. Deloitte Analysis: Health Care Costs for Average American Could Triple by 2040 if Health Inequities are Unaddressed While Annual Spending Could Exceed $1 Trillion. Published online June 22, 2022. Accessed July 13, 2022. https://prn.to/3PmrblI.