Access to health care in the United States has consistently been changing over time and through various generations. Different generations have necessitated different health needs and, therefore, there has been a need to change and refocus health care policies. Health policy analysis encompasses an approach that seeks to provide an insight and answers to the interaction that exists between institutions, interests and ideas in a policy process. Owing to the different demands that have been posed by different generations, there has been a shift both in the mode of access to health care as well as in health care policies and programs initiated. This paper shall analyze two of the six generations that have featured in the history of the United States. The two generations to be captured in this endeavor is the Boomers I or the Baby Boomers and the current Generation Z.
Boomers I/Baby Boomers
This consists of persons that were born between the years 1946-1954 and was marked by several memorable events. These events include the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War, man walking on the moon, environmental movement, and experimentation with intoxicating substances for recreation among other events. As evident, this generation was characterized with experimentation and individualism on the part of the people and this without doubt, had its health implications. It marked the first period in which the people experimented with toxic substances such as drugs. As such, some of the health care needs required at this time in history included the need to tackle the use of intoxicating substances. The increase in population at the time brought about by the boom presented new challenges for health care. Three distinct features defined health care delivery during this period of history and generation. Patients relied on physicians and other health care providers to act as their agents. Secondly, people or patients received health care from independent and non-profit hospitals. Thirdly, insurance firms did not meddle with the affairs of decision making agencies. In fact, insurers reimbursed physicians, health care providers and hospitals on a fee for service basis. The upshot of this health care delivery mechanism was an increase in health care costs. Consequently, there was a need to change this so as to cut on costs especially with the increasing population. Patients in the Baby Boomers generation received health care services from hospitals which were non-profit based and independent. They viewed their health care providers with a lot of trust and reliance.
Generation Z constitutes the latest generation born at the turn of the new millennium. Health care delivery, programs, and policies have fundamentally changed owing to evolving needs and the rise in use of technology. There is now the use of health care information systems where records are automated. There has also emerged what is now known as managed health care which is a far cry from the situation obtaining in the Baby Boomers generation. A bigger focus is now targeted at preventive care as opposed to curative care. There is also a measure to cut on costs by reducing overutilization and cutting on unnecessary utilization of expensive health services. Standards of quality of care accorded to patients have now been set especially to counter the varying quality of care offered by traditional service providers. Health care delivery in Generation Z mainly involves organizations that pay the bill for patients, determining, and managing the care given to the patient. As a result, organizations such as insurance firms are involved in making decisions over what kind of health care a patient will receive and which provider will so provide. The view of health care providers has deteriorated. Health care providers are now viewed with some mistrust for the reason that they are possibly motivated by profits. This has been as a result of poor health care accorded to people. Moreover, there has been an increase in the cases of medical negligence which has resulted in many suits being filed against health care providers. Health care needs for generation Z has also changed since the generation is faced with obesity owing to their current lifestyle. As such, the health care programs being initiated are aimed at remedying the very malady.
It can be concluded that in both generations, heath care was provided in hospitals and paid by insurers. However, in generation Z, the focus has shifted to managed health care where insurers determine the kind of treatment offered to patients. Also, the view of health care providers amongst patients has changed for the worse.
Conklin, T. P. (2007). Health Care in the United States: An Evolving System. Michigan Family Review, 12-15.
Walt, G., Shiffmann, J., Schneider, H., Murray, S. F., Brugha, R., & Gilson, L. (2009). ‘Doing’ health policy analysis: methodological and conceptual reflections and challenges. Oxford Journals on Medicine and Health Policy Planning, 1-17.