The US emerges from a long recession, managing the growing cost of healthcare remains an ongoing concern. The Affordable Health Act will eventually assure the availability of healthcare insurance coverage to over 30 million more Americans. This landmark legislation will improve access to a previously uninsured or underinsured group of Americans.
Health and Healthcare disparities is broadly defined as worse baseline states of health and relatively worse clinical outcomes associated with certain diseases in certain population groups. The affected groups may be distinguished by race, ethnicity, culture, gender, religion and age. The costs to treat the diseases which result from Health and Healthcare disparities represent one of the recognized areas of unnecessary and arguably avoidable healthcare delivery costs. Specifically, in certain instances both prevention and more cost efficient management of chronic disease states can significantly reduce healthcare costs. A chronic disease is defined as a long lasting or recurrent medical condition.
Some common examples include diabetes, hypertension, asthma and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, our current healthcare system may be better equipped to manage intermittent and episodic disease occurrences and not the demands of chronic medical conditions In a study published by Weidman et al from The Urban Institute,the authors estimated that in 2009, disparities among African Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites will cost the health care system $23.9 billion dollars. Medicare alone will spend an extra $15.6 billion while private insurers will incur $5.1 billion in additional costs due to elevated rates of chronic illness among these groups of Americans. Over the 10-year period from 2009 through 2018, the authors estimated that the total cost of these disparities to be approximately $337 billion, including $220 billion for Medicare.
In the same study, the authors estimated the total healthcare costs secondary to racial and ethnic health disparities in chronic disease treatment (diabetes, hypertension, stroke, renal disease, poor general health) in African Americans and Latino Americans residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be $700 million. The Urban Institute. A study entitled The Economic Burden of Health inequalities in the United States by LaVeist et almeasured the economic burden of health disparities in the US using three measures: (1) direct medical costs of health inequalities (2) Indirect costs of health inequalities (3) Costs of premature death Their findings revealed:
- The combined costs of health inequalities and premature death in the US among African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans were $1.24 trillion
- Eliminating health disparities for minorities would have reduced direct medical expenditures by $229.4 billion for the years 2003-2006
- Between 2003 and 2006, 30.6% of direct medical expenditures for African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics were excess costs due to health inequalities.