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Ethical Issues Healthcare

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TH E E C O N O M I C B U R D E N
O F H E A LT H I N E Q U A L I T I E S
IN T H E U N I T E D S TAT E S

THE ECONOMIC BURDEN OF
HEALTH INEQUALITIES IN THE UNITED STATES
Thomas A. LaVeist, Ph.D.
Darrell J. Gaskin, Ph.D.
Patrick Richard, Ph.D.

September 2009

foreward
Not everyone in the United States enjoys the same health opportunities. Studies show that minority Americans experience poorer than average health outcomes from cradle to the grave. They are much more likely to die as infants, have higher rates of diseases and disabilities, and have shorter life spans.
As the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration work toward enactment of legislation to reform America’s health care system, a central focus of the debate has been the projected cost of ensuring accessible and affordable health care to every citizen.
While some have struggled with the premise that health care reform can actually reduce health-related spending, the experience of racial and ethnic minorities under our current health care system is a strong indication that improving opportunities for good health – and minimizing inequities in health care access and outcomes – may well be good for the nation’s fiscal health, as well.
This study, commissioned by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and carried out by leading researchers from
Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, provides important insight into how much of a financial burden racial disparities are putting on our health care system and society at large. The researchers examined the direct costs associated with the provision of care to a sicker and more disadvantaged population, as well as the indirect costs of health inequities such as lost productivity, lost wages, absenteeism, family leave, and premature death.
What they found was striking. More than 30 percent of direct medical costs faced by African…...

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