QUALITY: More Likely to Get Sick, Less Likely to Have Access to Care
More evidence about the health care crisis facing poor people and minorities. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius this week released a report, Health Disparities: A Case for Closing the Gap, examining widespread and worrisome disparities. Low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities experience higher rates of disease, face more barriers to accessing care, and often lack access to routine or preventative care.
Chronic disease is a particularly big problem. In general, minority populations are more likely than white populations to experience obesity, cancer, diabetes, or HIV. While about 39 percent of the general population suffers from chronic disease, the rate for African Americans is 48 percent. Seven out of 10 African Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 are overweight or obese. They are also more likely than other racial or ethnic groups develop cancer or be HIV infected.
Access is also a problem. Low-income people and minorities are much less likely have insurance. Of the approximately 46 million uninsured, about half are poor and one-third suffer from chronic disease. Even for those with access to care, the care is less consistent. Disjointed, inconsistent care frequently leads to poorer health, and for those with chronic disease, a lack of routine care and prevention can lead to costly emergency room visits and more serious health problems. Low-income Americans are three times less likely to have a consistent source of medical care.
Minorities are less likely to receive routine screening for cancer. That means when the disease is finally detected, it is in a more advanced and often fatal stage. Low-income women are 26 percent less likely to have a mammogram. Vietnamese women are about half as likely to get routine pap smear for early detection of cervical cancer—and Hispanic and Vietnamese women experience cervical cancer at twice the rate of white women. The White House addressed the health care problems faced by women in an earlier report, Roadblocks to Health Care.
These disparities are only growing worse in the current economic crisis, underscoring the importance of health reform that is affordable, accessible, and emphasizes comprehensive, preventative care for everyone. Recently, the Kaiser Family Foundation has taken a look at state and national health disparities in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity. We'll post on the briefing, Putting Women's Health Disparities on the Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level, later this week. As Secretary Sebelius said in a press release,
Minorities and low income Americans are more likely to be sick and less likely to get the care they need...These disparities have plagued our health system and our country for too long. Now, it's time for Democrats and Republicans to come together to pass reforms this year that help reduce disparities and give all Americans the care they need and deserve.