Health disparities cost US $451B annually

Racial and ethnic health disparities cost the U.S. $451 billion in 2018, according to a study published May 16 on JAMA Health Network

The study was funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and other public health agencies, according to a May 16 news release from the institute. 

Researchers used databases to analyze the cost of excess medical care, lost productivity and premature death among racial and ethnic minority populations and adults 25 years and older with less than a four-year college degree in the U.S. 

Here are five other key findings of the report:

1. The $451 billion economic burden in 2018 was a 41 percent increase from the 2014 estimate of $320 billion.

2. Five states with the highest burden of racial and ethnic health inequities were among the states with the highest population and highest levels of diversity: Texas ($41 billion), California ($40 billion), Illinois ($29 billion), Florida ($27 billion) and Georgia ($21 billion). 

3. Nationally, adults whose highest level of education was a high school diploma had the highest medical costs, holding a burden of $9,982 per person, respectively. Adults with less than a high school diploma held a burden of $9,467 per person, while adults with some college had $2,028 per person.

4. Among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (90 percent), Black/African American (77 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (74 percent) populations, most of the economic burden was attributed to premature deaths.

5. For Asian (55 percent) and Hispanic/Latino (43 percent) populations, most of the burden was from excess medical care costs and lost labor market productivity, respectively. 

"The results of this study demonstrate that health inequity represents not just unfair and unequal health outcomes, but it also has a significant financial cost," Thomas LaVeist, PhD, lead author and dean of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, said in the release. "While it surely will cost to address health inequities, there are also substantial costs associated with not addressing them. Health inequities is a social justice issue, but it is also an economic issue."

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