A myriad of factors and interests make the U.S. healthcare system complex and resistant to change.

Image of a healthcare professional holding a table device; various medical symbols are streaming from the device.What do you do if you need to see a doctor? If you live in the U.S., your answer to that question may just depend on whether or not you’re insured.

Not only are there a large variety of group health insurance plans offered through employers, but our system also includes Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Health Administration system, and individual plans offered through the insurance markets set up by the Affordable Care Act. The kind of insurance you have can directly influence how much you pay for healthcare and what doctors you’re permitted to see.

Needless to say, the U.S. healthcare system is complicated. But why? Why can’t we simplify our system so that finding and affording quality healthcare is less complex? From a distance, it may seem like reform is an obvious solution. But there are a lot of reasons our system is resistant to change. These reasons include:

There Are a Lot of Stakeholders

There are over 320 million people living in the U.S., and every individual will need healthcare at one point or another. On top of that, there are more than 15.8 million jobs in healthcare, making the industry one of the nation’s largest employers.* With so many people invested in the system, it’s difficult to change anything without one or more groups of people worrying that the changes will negatively impact them personally and/or professionally. No matter how “wise” a reform may seem, there will always be opposition because there will always be someone who believes they’re on the losing end of the deal.

There Is A Lot of Money Involved

The U.S. spends over $3 trillion a year on healthcare, which accounts for nearly 18% of the nation’s GDP. With that much money involved, it’s impossible to simplify the system without shifting or eliminating some of those expenditures. For instance, adopting a government-run single-payer system would almost certainly eliminate the multi-billion dollar private health insurance industry. A single-payer plan could also force hospitals and physicians to take significantly less in reimbursements, which could lead to the financial failure of hospitals and clinics. These potential economic threats would undoubtedly be met with fierce opposition by those who stood to lose. But it doesn’t take anything nearly as dramatic as a complete overhaul of the system to create economically based opposition. Just the threat of raising taxes to pay for healthcare benefits or curtailing existing Medicare costs to reduce deficits can cause major protests.

Newer Treatments Are Expensive

If you’re sick, you likely want the latest, most effective treatments. After all, high-tech medical equipment and modern pharmaceuticals can help treat and/or cure conditions and diseases that were once fatal. But the problem is, new treatments are expensive. As Robert Graboyes, a healthcare scholar at George Mason University points out, “Americans want the newest and latest technology available, and the American healthcare system can often provide that quickly. But, that quality and speed comes at a cost.” And those costs complicate efforts for reform.

No one wants to let someone die because a treatment is expensive. And yet paying for expensive treatments strains the system. Theoretically, we could limit costs for new treatments, but that could create its own problems. The vast majority of new treatments are developed by private companies motivated by profit. If we significantly reduce or completely eliminate those profits, would anyone still be motivated to develop new treatments? Unfortunately, the matter isn’t simple. And that lack of simplicity makes reform more difficult.

It’s Hard to Balance Cost, Quality, and Availability

There’s an old business adage that says you can’t have something fast, good, and cheap. You have to pick two. That adage tends to apply to healthcare as well as business, and it’s an issue every nation faces when designing and implementing a healthcare system. How do you provide high-quality care and reasonable wait times, all at a manageable cost? Currently, the U.S. is struggling to offer even one of those outcomes.

According to studies, the U.S. spends more per capita on healthcare than any other comparison nation and yet has the worst health outcomes.§ A system that out of balance cannot be easily fixed. Any change has to find a way to lower costs and raise quality of care, without inflicting extreme wait times on patients. It will take the best minds to find workable—and popular—solutions.

How Can You Help Improve Our Healthcare System?

If you want to become a leader in the healthcare industry, one of the best choices you can make is to earn a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree. This advanced healthcare administration degree can put you at the forefront of the field and help you improve the experience of healthcare providers as well as patients.

If you’re worried that an MHA program might make it hard to keep working while you earn your master’s, you should consider online learning. Through an online university, you can earn your master’s in healthcare administration right from home and on a schedule that allows you to attend class at whatever time of day is most convenient for you.

Plus, online education can give you the opportunity to earn your MHA degree through a competency-based degree program. Unlike a traditional degree program, a competency-based degree program allows you to earn credits for knowledge you already possess, which can save you time and money. It’s a particularly good option for those already in the healthcare field.

The U.S. healthcare system may seem endlessly complex. But, when you earn an MHA degree online, you can learn how to make the system work better.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Healthcare Administration degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*Bureau of Labor Statistics, Healthcare: Millions of Jobs Now and In the Future, U.S. Department of Labor, on the internet at www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art03.pdf.

†A. Martin, et. al., National Health Spending: Faster Growth In 2015 As Coverage Expands And Utilization Increases, Health Affairs, on the internet at http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/36/1/166.

‡K. Watson, Why Is Health Care So Expensive in the First Place? CBS News, on the internet at www.cbsnews.com/news/why-is-health-care-so-expensive-in-the-first-place.

§L. Bernstein, Once Again, U.S. has Most Expensive, Least Effective Health Care System in Survey, on the internet at www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/06/16/once-again-u-s-has-most-expensive-least-effective-health-care-system-in-survey/?utm_term=.58b8d5b64e0f.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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