Affordable healthcare is a fundamental human right. Yet, many low-income Americans have limited access to health services, which is a living nightmare. But why is it so tough for some Americans to pay for health services and get the care they need? In this article, we’ll discuss how the American healthcare system got here, and how we can promote affordable healthcare for all communities in the US.

What Does Affordability Mean to Low-Income Americans?

Getting the healthcare you need should be a given, right? No matter your income or social status, you need access to good, affordable health services. Well, sadly, that’s not the case.

Many low-income folks in America have to make the daily choice between buying food or going to the doctor. They don’t have the “privilege” of doing both, so they end up skipping important medical care in hopes that their disease will go away on its own. 

This sacrifice makes their health deteriorate, causing even more financial issues in the long run. If they can’t afford to pay for a flu check-up, imagine the implications of dealing with more serious health problems. But what exactly makes their experience so awful that causes them to go to these far ends?

High Costs

High healthcare costs are the first barrier for low-income Americans. Think about a scenario where a low-income person needs a routine check-up. If they have something going on with their health, the costs will add up before they can have a say in it. High-cost bills, copayments, and out-of-pocket expenses can quickly lead up to debt, and that’s something that heavily affects many families in the US. 

Another cost-related issue is the lack of price transparency in healthcare. People often don’t know the true cost of services they need, so they end up in emergency rooms for basic medical needs. This results in puffed bills, high medical costs, and tons of unnecessary spending on their part. 

Limited Insurance Options

Many low-income Americans don’t have health insurance. Others who do have coverage that’s so bad that it doesn’t even meet their basic needs. As you can imagine, this leaves them incredibly vulnerable.

Without insurance, people are forced to pay out-of-pocket, which is plainly unaffordable in the US. So, people delay seeking the care they need to a point in time when they can actually afford it. Due to a lack of resources, they also skip prescribed treatments, which worsens their health and forces them to deal with even more spending in the future.

This cycle undeniably leads to health poverty. What happens is that people struggle to maintain their health, are less productive, and can’t even dare dream about economic stability. They have to rely on public health programs, and as we all know, they’re never enough. 

Transportation Challenges

Another huge barrier low-income people face is transportation. This is especially true for those living in rural or underserved areas who have a very hard time accessing medical facilities. 

These people have two options: drive their own car and spend their life savings on fuel or use other forms of transport. One option is public transportation, but people in villages or deep rural areas typically have limited access to them. The other alternative is using taxis or rideshare services, which can be the last straw for people trying to make ends meet. 

Existing Initiatives Tackling this Issue

However, there are some programs in place that aim to address the healthcare needs of low-income Americans. Here are two that stand out. 

Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aiming to improve access to healthcare for low-income Americans. Thanks to its policies, the expansion lets more families qualify for Medicaid.

Under these expansions, states can extend their Medicaid coverage to people with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. Ever since it’s launch, millions of people have gained access to preventive care, chronic disease management, and emergency services. 

Government Subsidies

Government subsidies are another strategy that has made healthcare somewhat more affordable for low-income families. They’re designed to help with premium tax credits for people with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level. 

For those up to 250% of the federal poverty level, these subsidies come with cost-sharing reductions, which are great for out-of-pocket expenses. 

What Can We Do to Build Equity?

To ensure everyone has access to healthcare, the weight falls on policymakers. They should be the ones drafting solutions that make healthcare affordable for all, regardless of income. Here are some policy change suggestions that would set the stage for an equal future:

  • Establish universal healthcare coverage to ensure everyone can access essential health services.
  • Help consumers to make informed decisions about their healthcare by making pricing transparent.
  • Enhance access to care by investing in telemedicine and digital health solutions.
  • Strengthen public health to better respond to community health needs and emergencies.
  • Allocate more resources to community health centers and clinics to enhance access to primary care services, especially in underserved areas.
  • Implement comprehensive strategies to address the opioid and substance use epidemic. Make real efforts to prevent, treat, and reduce harm.

Besides these practical solutions, changemakers should also think about implementing policies to reduce poverty and improve economic stability. In a world where everyone has a real shot at life, it’s easier to make long-lasting changes.

Policymakers should also develop strategies to enhance access to quality education. Education levels correlate with better health outcomes and health literacy, so it’s an all-around solution for humanity.

Then, the state should address housing affordability and quality issues to ensure everyone can access safe and healthy housing. Those things are essential for overall well-being, which can only be reached by fostering social connections and community safety.

We should also all think about ways to address systemic racism and promote racial equity, as they are two prime examples of inequality within the healthcare system. By prioritizing these solutions, changemakers can ensure a more equitable life for all communities living in the US. 

Enhancing Healthcare Worker Role

Lastly, we should think about ways to include healthcare workers more. These workers are vital in helping patients find financial assistance for their healthcare needs. With their understanding of various assistance programs, they can guide patients through accessing good financial support. 

That can mean connecting patients with government subsidies or charity care programs. They could also help navigate insurance coverage options, which is sometimes all a patient needs. 


In conclusion, we need affordable healthcare to promote equity and improve the overall well-being of everyone living in the US. By addressing the barriers faced by low-income Americans, expanding access to existing programs, and implementing comprehensive policy changes, we can move closer to achieving a healthcare system that is truly equitable for all.