Big Health Care Disparities Persist Across the U.S., New Report Finds

Big Health Care Disparities Persist Across the U.S., New Report Finds
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Key Takeaways

  • Deep-seated racial and ethnic disparities in health care exist even in America’s more progressive states

  • California’s treatment of white residents far outpaces that of its minority citizens

  • Premature deaths from treatable causes are worst among Black people and American Indians

THURSDAY, April 18, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Deep-seated racial and ethnic disparities persist in health care across the United States, even in states considered the most progressive, a new report shows.

For example, California received a score of 45 for the care its health system provides Hispanic Americans. The Commonwealth Fund report gives each state a 0-to-100 score for each population group living there.

That’s better than Florida’s health system, which received a 37 for care provided to Hispanic Americans there.

But it’s far worse than California’s treatment of white patients, which received a score of 87.

The report “offers a comprehensive analysis of the way health care systems are functioning for people in every state, evaluating disparities in health and health care across racial and ethnic groups, both within and between states,” the report authors said.

Researchers used 25 measures to evaluate states on health care access, quality, service use and health outcomes for different racial and ethnic populations.

They found that disparities exist even in states well-known for their high-performing health systems.

For example, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Connecticut stand out for their relatively high performance in treating all patients, but those states still had considerable health disparities between white and non-white residents, researchers found.

Across the country, premature deaths from preventable and treatable causes occur at a higher rate among Black and American Indian people overall, compared to other groups, the report found.

Further, in several southwestern and Mountain states premature death rates for Hispanics are higher than elsewhere in the United States, where Hispanic rates align more closely to those of white residents. These states include New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

However, preventable deaths are higher for both Black and white residents in several southern and south-central states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.

The report’s authors suggest pursuing four broad policy goals to create an equitable health system:

  • Make sure affordable, comprehensive and equitable health insurance is available for everyone

  • Improve primary care

  • Reduce paperwork for patients and providers

  • Invest in social services

“Since disparities and health inequities vary across states, there are also opportunities for state programs to tailor interventions that address communities’ unique needs,” the researchers added.

Advancing Racial Equity in U.S. Health Care: The Commonwealth Fund 2024 State Health Disparities Report is available online.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about racism and health.

SOURCE: Commonwealth Fund, news release, April 18, 2024

What This Means For You

States can improve health care for all residents by making insurance broadly available, improving primary care and reducing the amount of paperwork doctors and patients must file.

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