Blacks and Hispanics are least likely to get routine medical care and most likely to be without health insurance, according to a Johns Hopkins University study released today.
Because of those disparities, minorities are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses and premature death, the report asserts.
The study, an examination of "inequities" in the health care delivery system, says that while economic status helps explain many of the disparities, other factors also contribute, including language barriers, attitudes toward health care and even geography.
The $300,000 study was commissioned by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York philanthropy, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank. It is being released today on Capitol Hill at a discussion panel sponsored by U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, head of the Congressional Black Caucus' health care committee.
The study was commissioned in 1993 at a time when the country was embroiled in debate over health care reform. Even though those efforts are now largely dead, Marsha Lillie Blanton, one of the report's principal investigators, said its findings should be noted as part of the current Congressional debate on the future of Medicaid.
"It's . . . critical that we make it clear where we stand and what we stand to lose or gain in the restructuring going on," said Dr. Blanton, a professor with the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.
The report says the solution to the inequities would be universal health insurance.
"Disparities in health coverage, use of health services, and expenditures by race/ethnicity, geographic region, and income are inexcusable in a nation with plentiful health resources," the report concludes.
Dr. Blanton says health care policies should build on the strengths identified by the report, for example, on the comfort level between patients and physicians of the same race or ethnic group.