While housing costs have escalated, health care costs have not been left behind. According to the National Health Expenditure Account (NHEA), health care spending grew 4.6 percent in 2019, reaching $3.8 trillion or $11,582 per person. The correlation between these two factors is multifaceted.
When housing is unaffordable, it consumes a large chunk of a household’s budget, leaving little for health care. This can lead to skipped doctor appointments, unfilled prescriptions, and postponed or forgone care. For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reveals that among households spending 30 percent or more of income on housing, approximately 30 percent also reported delaying medical care due to cost.
Furthermore, unstable or inadequate housing often leads to adverse health outcomes. People living in substandard housing or experiencing housing instability may face chronic stress, increased exposure to environmental hazards, and lower access to nutritious food, often driving up their health care needs and costs.
Affordable housing is also concentrated in neighborhoods lacking vital resources. They often have fewer supermarkets offering fresh produce, lack safe outdoor spaces for physical activity, and have limited access to quality health care services. Consequently, residents of these areas have an increased risk of chronic diseases. According to the CDC, about 86 percent of the nation’s $2.7 trillion annual health care expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.
Understanding this intricate correlation between affordable housing and health care costs is pivotal for creating integrated policies that improve housing and health outcomes and ultimately reduce the burden of health care costs. By approaching these two issues in tandem, we can make strides toward a healthier and more economically secure future.
The interplay between affordable housing and health care costs presents a challenging yet fundamental dynamic to consider in shaping the future of our society. The rising cost of housing, marked by the house-price-to-income ratio, combined with the increasing cost of health care, creates a vicious cycle affecting many American households.
Indeed, the direct and indirect impacts of housing affordability on health outcomes and health care spending are clear. Unaffordable housing can lead to stressful living conditions, increased health care needs, and rising health care costs. Inversely, high health care costs can force households to compromise on accommodation, exacerbating affordability.
Given these complexities, it’s crucial to view affordable housing not merely as a socioeconomic issue but as a significant public health concern. Policy solutions must be comprehensive and integrative, addressing affordable housing and health care costs concurrently. A concerted effort towards improving housing affordability can not only enhance the living conditions of millions of Americans but also mitigate the escalating health care costs in the United States.
Through strategic policy-making and resource allocation, we can break the cycle and ensure everyone has access to affordable housing and adequate health care. Doing so will lead to a healthier, more resilient population and a more equitable society. The time to act on this pressing issue is now.
Harvey Castro is a physician, health care consultant, and serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in the health care industry. He can be reached on his website, harveycastromd.info, Twitter @HarveycastroMD, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. He is the author of Bing Copilot and Other LLM: Revolutionizing Healthcare With AI, Solving Infamous Cases with Artificial Intelligence, The AI-Driven Entrepreneur: Unlocking Entrepreneurial Success with Artificial Intelligence Strategies and Insights, ChatGPT and Healthcare: The Key To The New Future of Medicine, ChatGPT and Healthcare: Unlocking The Potential Of Patient Empowerment, Revolutionize Your Health and Fitness with ChatGPT’s Modern Weight Loss Hacks, and Success Reinvention.