The latest studies have shown that in spite of the steady developments in the overall health of the United States, racial and ethnic minorities still experience an inferior quality of health services and are less likely to receive routine medical testing which contributes to disease and even death. This research paper will seek to answer the question as to why there is race related disparity in health care and what we can do to improve the health care for those affected due to their race.
Health Care Disparities Race Related
A comprehensive survey was conducted in both public and private sector of the United States health care system in order to examine the public opinion about the racial disparities in the system. In addition to that some secondary data including books, websites, journals etcetera was also used.
Introduction and Background:
The United States health care system has been subjected to immense debate. There are people who argue that United States of America has got the best health care system in the world. They support their argument by pointing to the free availability of medical care and availability of advanced technology and facilities. While there are other people who say that the United States health care system is quite inefficient as compared to the massive expenditures that the government makes on it. They argue that despite this massive expenditure the United States health care system suffers from inefficiency and dissatisfactory quality.
Both the private and the public insurers are present in the United States health care system. But what makes the U.S. health care system different from the health care systems of other countries of the world is the influence of private sector over the public sector. In the year 2003, private employer sponsored medical insurance was given to the 62% of the non-elderly U.S. citizens whereas; the private non-grouped or individual medical insurance was purchased by 5% of non-elderly citizens. Public sector medical insurance was provided to 15% of the non-elderly citizens however 18% of the citizens were not insured. Elderly citizens of age 65 and over are periodically insured by public insurers such as Medicaid. (Chua, 2006)
The public sector includes the following programs:
Medicare: It is a federal program. Individuals who age 65 and over are covered by it. Medicare also covers certain individuals who are disabled.
Medicaid: This program is directed towards disabled and low income citizens. According to the law of the State insurance should be provided to low income pregnant women, disabled citizens and elderly people. Medicaid does not cover adults with no children.
The State Children's Health Insurance Program: this program was enforced in 1997 to cover the children whose family does not qualify for Medicaid but due to low income they cannot afford private insurers.
Veteran's Administration: It covers the military officials. It is financed by government's tax income and provides quite affordable services to the veterans of the military. These services are provided in military hospitals and clinics. (Chua, 2006)
The private sector of the United States health care system consists of the following programs:
Employer-sponsored insurance: It is the most basic kind of insurance where the employers provide health care facilities to the employees as a part of their benefits or salary plan.
Private non-group or individual insurance: This program covers the individuals who are indulged in their own business, retired citizens and the officials or employees who are not insured by their organizations or employers. (Chua, 2006)
The public sector of the United States health care system is mostly financed by the tax earnings of the government. In private sector, for employer based insurance employers pay most of the premiums and the remainder is then funded by the employees and in individual insurance all of the premiums are paid by the individual who is being covered by the insurance.
The Population of United States of America:
About one third of the population of America is constituted by minorities. The graph below shows the contribution of different racial and ethnic groups in the population of United States of America. (Mead, Cartwright-Smith, Jones, Ramos & Siegel, 2008)
Whites contribute 67% in the total population. Blacks and Asians contribute 12% and 4.2% respectively. The minimum contribution is made by American Indians which is 0.8%. Hispanics contribute the highest among the minorities which is 14%.
It is also projected that minorities will form about half of the population of the United States of America till 2050. The graph below shows the projected population of United States of America. (Mead, Cartwright-Smith, Jones, Ramos & Siegel, 2008)
The graph shows a decline in white population from 69% to 50%, Hispanic population will increase from 13% to 24%, black from 13% to 15%, Asian from 3.8% to 8% and the contribution of other minorities will increase from 2.5% to 5.3%.
Racial Disparities in Health care System:
Racial inequalities in the health care system are related to the biased beliefs and behaviors of the society. Racial discrepancies are not a result of individual behavior instead they are deeply rooted in the policies, procedures and rules of the health care institutions. Such disparities are also a result of the basic values and beliefs that are instilled in the society since childhood. (Williams & Rucker)
How deeply are these Disparities rooted in the U.S. Health care System?
It has been acknowledged by a report of United States of America that a large number of racial and ethnic disparities are prevalent in the United States health care system.
Life expectancy Rate:
The report recorded that there was a decrease in the life expectancy gap of African-American and whites but still there are certain issues that must be noticed. For example, instead of this reduction in the life expectancy gap the life cycle of African-Americans is still six to ten years shorter than that of whites. In an analysis of 1991 to 2000 it has been claimed that if the life expectancy rate of African-Americans and whites would have been shifted to the same level almost 880,000 deaths would have been avoided. ("Unequal health," 2008)
Poor Health Problems:
Different racial and ethnic groups such as African-Americans, American Indians and Pacific Islanders suffer more poor health problems as compared to Asian-Americans and whites. These health problems include various diseases such as HIV Aids, cancer, cardiac arrest, diabetes etcetera.
The rates of poor health in different racial groups are higher than that of whites. American Indians complain of poor health problems twice as much as white. About 14.6% of blacks claim that they suffer from poor health whereas the percentage of white suffering from poor health is only 8%. Another racial group, Latinos, suffers greatly from diseases such as diabetes and is more likely to suffer from poor health as compared to whites. The graph below shows the percentages of different racial groups suffering from poor health as reported by National Health Interview Survey. ("Unequal health," 2008)
("Unequal health," 2008)
As shown in the graph whites suffer the minimum amount of poor health issues that is only 8%. The maximum poor health issues are faced by American Indians which is 16.5%.
The health status of various ethnic groups varies on the basis of their race, status and country of origin. For example, Hispanic men suffer from liver cancer and die due to it seven times more than white men. It has also been noticed that Vietnamese women suffer from cervical cancer the most as compared to any other racial or ethnic group. In addition to that the Mexican and Puerto Rican women are targeted by cervical cancer twice as more as white women. The highest rate of breast cancer prevails among the Hawaiians and most of the Filipinas die due to this disease. Breast cancer is said to be the major cause of death among the Filipinas. ("Unequal health," 2008)
It is also recorded by the U.S. report that the infant mortality gap between the whites and blacks has increased. Though there has been a decrease in the rate of infant mortality but the infant mortality gap between African-Americans and blacks have increased up to 25%. Moreover, black infants are noted to have low birth weight two times more than white infants. Low birth weight is regarded as a major cause of infant mortality. The following figure shows the relationship between infant mortality and education of mothers. ("Unequal health," 2008)
("Unequal health," 2008)
It is quite evident from the above figure that the infant mortality rate declines with the increase in the education of mothers however this does not decrease the infant mortality gap between whites and blacks which has been increasing since last many years.