Healthcare disparities are costing billions of dollars across the country


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Racial and ethnic health disparities are growing into a multitrillion-dollar problem across the United States.

Researchers analyzed the economic costs of unequal treatment of patients based on race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars, according to a news release.

As of 2018, the burden of racial and ethnic health inequalities was estimated at $421 billion to $451 billion. Based on education-related inequalities, the costs ranged from $940 billion to $978 billion, the latter figure nearly double the annual growth rate of the US economy in the same year.

The economic burden is based on three factors: excessive medical costs, lost labor market productivity, and premature death. There is a range in this estimate because the researchers used different data sets to tabulate.

“The results of this study show that health inequalities not only lead to unfair and unequal health outcomes, but also come with economic costs,” study leader Thomas A. Laveist said in a news release. ‘ said. Laveiste is Dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University, with researchers from the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Uniform Service College and TALV. summarized the analysis. , and the National Urban League.

“Investments in achieving health equity will not only help people live longer and healthier lives, but will also provide economic returns that benefit the well-being of communities in the long run.” said Laveiste. “It is true that addressing health inequalities requires significant resources, but it is also true that the cost of not addressing health inequalities is high.”

Main findings

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study used four national databases to identify five races: Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. and the economic burden of health inequalities for ethnic minority groups.

The researchers said some of their key findings included:

  • The black population bore 69% of the economic burden of racial and ethnic inequalities due to premature death.
  • Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives had the highest per capita economic burdens of $23,225 and $12,351, respectively.
  • In most states (33 states), racial and ethnic health inequalities had the highest economic burden on blacks, followed by Hispanics/Latinas (9 states), Amerindians/Alaska Natives (8 states), Became Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (1 state). . )
  • The burden of racial and ethnic health inequalities to GDP in each state varied from 0.14% in Vermont to 8.89% in Mississippi.
  • In 2018, 17 states had a burden that exceeded the annual growth rate of the U.S. economy.

education problem

Aside from racial and ethnic disparities, education contributes to the economic burden of health disparities, researchers said.

Adults with a high school diploma had the highest cost at $9,982, bearing 61% of the burden of education-related health disparities. The cost for an adult under high school diploma was $9,467 for him. This group was 9% of the population, but bore 26% of the economic burden. The study found that the financial burden for adults attending college was $2,028.

Cost estimates were based on premature death, which accounted for 66% of the burden. Labor market productivity lost 18%. Excess medical costs are 16%.

“The right thing to do”

In recent years, the social justice argument has been persuasively appealed as a reason for devoting more resources to closing health inequalities.

“Addressing health inequalities is the ‘right thing to do,'” the study said. “But there are also compelling utilitarian arguments. Health inequalities have significant economic consequences and affect everyone.”

NIMHD commissioned the study, and Director Eliseo J. Perez Stable, M.D., also agreed with the findings.

“The exorbitant costs of health inequalities are shrinking America’s economic potential,” Perez Stable said in a press release. “We have a clear call to action to address the social and structural factors that adversely affect not only the health of our populations but also economic growth.”

“The Economic Burden of Racial, Ethnic, and Educational Health Disparities in the United States” JAMA. Tulane University Institute for Health Equity Innovation has created his website, costofinequity.org, dedicated to this research.



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