COVID-19: U.S. Health System Capacity and Populations at Risk

empty hospital bedsThe Commonwealth Fund released a report assessing the U.S. health system’s capacity to handle the COVID-19 epidemic as compared to other high-income countries. The report addresses the U.S. populations at risk, aspects of healthcare system capacity, as well as affordability of medical care. As the outbreak continues to spread globally, individual country’s data can help leaders and communities to respond to the increased needs of high-risk individuals.

According to the report’s findings, the U.S. has an average share of older adults. At the same time, the U.S. population experiences greater prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes, lung, and heart disease. Additionally, data suggests that the U.S. healthcare resources can become strained as its medical workforce and acute hospital bed capacity is lower in comparison to other countries included in this study. Despite these limitations, the U.S. has an overall lower occupancy of hospital beds and relatively greater ability to provide radiography (CT) scans, as well as a higher number of intensive care (ICU) beds. Overall, these findings suggest that the U.S. might be in a better position to deal with the current public health emergency.

Finally, many U.S. adults, including those in high-risk categories, are likely to forgo medical care due to being uninsured or underinsured. While the recent federal legislation requires health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing services, high out-of-pocket treatment costs might prevent affected individuals from seeking comprehensive care.

For more information on related topics visit the HSDL Featured Topic on Pandemics and Epidemics or view other resources related to emergency preparedness.  In addition, you can find more data in our new COVID-19 Special Collection. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

Need help finding something?  Ask one of our librarians for assistance!