Advertisement

U.S. health spending 'disproportionately' tilted toward White people

Healthcare spending for routine services and treatment in the United States is disproportionately higher for White people than for other racial and ethnic groups, according to new research. Photo by orzalaga/Pixabay
Healthcare spending for routine services and treatment in the United States is disproportionately higher for White people than for other racial and ethnic groups, according to new research. Photo by orzalaga/Pixabay

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The United States spends about 15% more on healthcare services for White people than for communities of color, an analysis published Tuesday by JAMA found.

Of the roughly $2.4 trillion spent on healthcare for six common diseases in 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, 72% was allocated for White people, the data showed.

Advertisement

In comparison, 11% was spent on care for Black people, with the same percentage spent on Hispanic people, the researchers said.

Black people account for just over 13% of the national population, while Hispanic people make up nearly 19%, according to figures from the 2020 census.

RELATED Vaccine distribution inequality reflects 'broken' U.S. healthcare system, experts say

"Healthcare resources are spread disproportionately across race and ethnicity groups [with] more spent on types of care associated with primary care -- ambulatory care, dental care and prescribed pharmaceuticals -- on White, non-Hispanic populations," study co-author Joseph Dieleman told UPI in an email.

"Structural racism and discrimination impact health outcome and healthcare systems in the United States," said Dieleman, an associate professor of health metric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted firmly entrenched racial disparities in access to quality healthcare, experts have said.

Advertisement
RELATED Study: Black adults in rural areas more likely to die from heart-linked causes

Black and Hispanic people in the United States are believed to be at higher risk for severe infection compared to White people, but have reduced access to care and vaccines, research has found.

For this study, however, Dieleman and his colleagues focused on the care of more "routine" diseases, namely asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, low back and neck pain, and cerebrovascular diseases, a group of conditions that affect blood flow and the blood vessels in the brain.

They analyzed spending across racial and ethnic groups for primary care and outpatient services, as well as hospital-related charges, for adults in the United States covered by either private health insurance or Medicare.

RELATED Study: Black, Hispanic kids get fewer imaging tests in ER than White kids

Healthcare spending per person per year for White people was $8,141, compared with $7,649 for American Indians and Alaska Natives; $4,692 Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; $7,361 for Black people; and $6,025 for Hispanic people, the data showed.

Although Black people received approximately 26% less spending for care than the average for the total population, their costs for hospital and emergency-room services were 19% and 12% higher, respectively, than the national average.

This latter finding highlights a lack of access to primary care services and a resulting reliance on emergency services for routine care, according to the researchers.

Advertisement

"Things like insurance coverage, transportation costs and ability to take off work to access care and past experiences with the healthcare system, among other factors, impact the demand for healthcare services," Dieleman said.

"Policies that increase insurance coverage uptake, incentivize use of primary care and preventative services and ensure local access to essential services are important pathways for improving health and ensuring that healthcare resources are available to everyone, regardless of their race/ethnicity," he said.

Latest Headlines