Deadly Inequality in the Health Care “Safety Net”: Uninsured Ethnic Minorities’ Struggle to Live with Life-Threatening Illnesses

Abstract

Forty-three million Americans are uninsured. This article explores the difficulties people experience in seeking health care through the health care “safety net,” which provides most of the health care that uninsured people receive, and critiques the gaps, inconsistencies, and failures of such care. In research with 176 African Americans and Latinos who had no health insurance, it was found that they delay seeking care because of cost, do without medications, have negative views of safety net health care, and experience discrimination. As a consequence of dissatisfaction with safety net care, avoidance of the health care system was commonplace. It is concluded that safety net health care facilitates the development of unhealthy practices, such as delays in seeking care. The inadequacy of safety net health care is thus injurious to people’s health.