Thursday, July 21, 2016

Good News Everybody! (on Racial Equality in Health Care)

During the last several weeks, it’s been rather depressing recognizing (yet again) that racism (still) is widespread in the United States. We’ve had yet another set of killings highlighting the differences between how police treat whites and people of color. Then we had a sitting U.S. Congressman enthusiastically endorse white supremacy on national television.
And I’m a clueless white dude– if I feel depressed about this state of affairs, imagine how bad it really must be.

When it seems like the median opinion of the national debate is somewhere between “Black Lives Don’t Matter” and “Black Lives Might Sort of Matter Sometimes When We Feel Like It as Long as Black People Keep Quiet and Don’t Hurt White People’s Fee Fees”, feeling the urge to slip into despair is understandable.
But over the last several years one indicator of racial equality has quietly been rapidly improving – a lot more African Americans are getting access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Quarterly analysis from the office for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been keeping track of changes in the uninsured rate. APSE (and other measures have noted massive across-the-board declines in the percentages of people without health insurance since the Medicaid Expansion and Insurance Exchanges went into effect in 2014.
What’s particularly notable, however, is how well African Americans seem to be doing under the ACA, however.
In the fourth quarter of 2013, 23.2 percent working-age African Americans lacked health insurance coverage, as against 14.3 percent of Whites.  By 2016, the African American uninsured rate had fallen to 10.6 percent, while the White rate had declined to 7.0 percent.  In total then, the gap between the uninsured rates between whites and blacks fell from 8.1 percentage points to 3.6 percentage points  -- a reduction of 55.6 percent.

That’s not perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot of progress.
Getting several southern states with large African American populations to expand Medicaid will likely further cut into this gap (yes, ex-Confederate States not named Arkansas or Louisiana, I’m looking at you).

The other challenge is that, despite improvements, coverage of Hispanics still lag significantly behind both Whites and Blacks.

But these are struggles going forward. For now, two and a half cheers for Obamacare's contribution to racial equality.

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