In discussing health reform, it is always difficult to conceive of what the statistics really mean when every individual represented has their own story of heart-wrenching decisions, cascading consequences, and tragedy compounded by frustration. Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to the disparities in health care that minorities and low-income Americans see, as the new report from HHS
Reduced Access to Care
Access to quality care is vital to overall health and wellness, and health insurance plays a key role. In the United States, racial and ethnic minorities and low-income populations experience serious disparities in rates of insurance and access to health care.
More than one in three Hispanics and American Indians – and just under one in five African Americans – are uninsured. In comparison, only about one in eight whites lacks health insurance.
Four in 10 low-income Americans do not have health insurance, and half of the nearly 46 million uninsured people in the United States are poor. About one-third of the uninsured have a chronic disease, and they are six times less likely to receive care for a health problem than the insured. In contrast, 94% of upper-income Americans have health insurance.
Lack of a Primary Care Provider and Usual Source of Care
A primary care provider and a facility where a person receives regular care substantially improve health outcomes. However, Hispanics are only half as likely to have a usual source of care as whites. What's more, half of Hispanics and more than a quarter of African Americans do not have a regular doctor, compared with only one fifth of whites.
Low-income Americans are three times less likely to have a usual source of care compared to those with higher incomes – and almost half of low-income Hispanics lack a usual source of care.
1:40: The meeting just concluded with loud applause. Secretary Sebelius thanked the stakeholders for their remarks today, and their work every day on these issues. She said as we work to enact health care reform legislation this year, she is very committed to also working within HHS to address these alarming health care disparities.
1:34: Nancy Zirkin from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is affirming the importance of improving data collection in underserved communities. We must learn the causes of health problems in minority communities to learn to what extent genetics or the environment are factors.
1:27: As the meeting begins to wind down, Rea Panares, Director of Minority Health Initiatives at Families USA, says that this conversation about health care reform is a new opportunity to close the gap in health care access and quality for minorities.
1:25: Barbara Kornblau with the Special Olympics is asking the stakeholders and Administration officials gathered to keep Americans with disabilities part of the conversation around health disparities, as disabilities can confront members of any ethnic or racial group.
1:15: Obesity is one of the major topics of discussion today. According to the new HHS report, seven out of ten African-Americans aged 18-64 are obese or overweight. This statistic points to another problem, which is that many ethnic and racial minorities. do not have a primary care physician who could educate them of the importance of prevention and the dangers of obesity. More than a quarter of African-Americans and half of Hispanics do not have a regular doctor, according to the report.
1:05: Stacey Bohlen, Executive Director of the National Indian Health Board, just spoke passionately about health care conditions in Indian Country. "The disease we suffer from is anonymity," she said. The health care system, despite help from the Indian Health Service and private programs in tribal areas, is starving. She is urging the Administration to focus on obtaining more data about the health of Native Americans, and she also highlights that most of the diseases plaguing tribal communities such as diabetes, alcoholism, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS are preventable.
12:55: Secretary Sebelius cites the new HHS report on health care disparities in the United States, singling out a few dramatic statistics. 48 percent of African-American adults have chronic diseases, and the rate of HIV/AIDS infection among African-Americans is seven times that of White men and women. She notes that minorities are more likely to be uninsured and are less likely to have access to quality care when they need it. We are here today, she says, because we all agree the system is broken, and we have to all work together to do something about it.
12:45: Office of Public Engagement Director Tina Tchen opens by encouraging the stakeholders to stay involved in the health reform effort after this meeting concludes. We are at a critical juncture, she says, and your continued involvement will help push is over the top.
12:40: Nancy-Ann DeParle, OPE Director Tina Tchen and HHS Secretary Sebelius just opened the Health Disparities Stakeholder Discussion on the fourth floor of the Old Executive Office Building. Gathered here with them are 26 representatives of racial, ethnic, and other minority groups to discuss persisting disparities in our health care system. Nancy-Ann DeParle says in her opening remarks that the issue of health care disparities is both a health issue and a civil rights issue that we must resolve. Who you are, where you are from, and how much money you have should not determine your ability to access quality health care, she says.