Glaring racial disparities found in health spending
A new analysis of healthcare spending in the United States has revealed stark disparities between racial and ethnic lines in the distribution of medical resources.
Non-Hispanic white Americans, who made up 61% of the nation’s population at the time of the study, accounted for 72% of the $ 2.4 trillion spent in 2016 on outpatient, inpatient, and emergency care; nursing homes; prescribed pharmaceutical products; and dental care, according to a recent study published in JAMA.
No other racial or ethnic group has received an inordinate share of the healthcare pie:
- Hispanics (then constituting 18 percent of the population) got 11 percent
- African Americans (then representing 12 percent of the population) received 11 percent
- Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (then at 6 percent of the population) got 3 percent
- Native American Indians and Alaskans (then at 1% of the population) got 1%
Researchers analyzed data collected on 7.3 million visits, admissions or prescriptions to the health care system from 2002 to 2016, for an estimated total of $ 29.9 trillion in spending across six types of care. The racial and ethnic disparities in health spending that the analysis revealed persisted after adjusting for differences in age or health status between racial and ethnic groups.
“This study provides evidence of differences in spending and use between racial and ethnic groups that cannot be explained by differences in age or reported health status of the individual,” the researchers wrote.
Instead, they suggest that a myriad of causes that have been previously identified are at play, including “how doctors respond to patients,[…] bias that exists in algorithms that assess health needs and determine appropriate interventions ”and“ residential segregation that prevents easy access to health services ”.
Inside the numbers
Although African Americans’ health care spending is roughly proportional to the size of their population, researchers say, a closer look at the numbers suggests that they don’t receive care until they are in pain. advanced disease.
African Americans spent 26% less on ambulatory care, but 12% more on emergency room care per person than average, a finding that “reinforces previous research showing unequal access to primary care,” observed the authors of the study.
In contrast, non-Hispanic white Americans spent 15% more per person on ambulatory care than average, suggesting they have better access to routine and preventive care. They also spend more on dental care and pharmaceuticals than other racial or ethnic groups.
“This study provides a clear picture of who benefits and who is left behind in our health care system,” study lead author Joseph L. Dieleman, associate professor in the University’s Department of Health Metrics of Washington School of Medicine, said in a statement.
Hispanics received about 33% less per person outpatient outpatient spending than average. According to the researchers, people in Asia, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands received less spending per person than average for all care except dental care.