The new insurance coverage made possible by the Affordable Care Act narrows longstanding racial and ethnic disparities in access to healthcare, but it does not eliminate them, a recent study finds.
Before the Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage, Black and Hispanic working-age adults were far more likely than whites to be uninsured, to lack a regular source of care, and to go without needed care because of costs. A Commonwealth Fund analysis shows that the share of Blacks and Hispanics with insurance increased after the ACA’s initial open enrollment period ended in the spring of 2014, and having health insurance reduces racial and ethnic disparities in key measures of healthcare access and affordability, even after adjusting for income and other factors. Among the insured, access to care was much higher across all racial and ethnic groups, and adults were much less likely to go without needed care for cost reasons.
However, the authors note, Hispanics are still less likely than both whites and Blacks to have a usual source of care even if they have insurance. “Having health insurance makes it easier to gain access to and afford care, but insurance alone is unlikely to eliminate differences in access among all groups,” they write. “Closing the gaps that remain among the insured will likely require efforts not only to connect Hispanics and other newly insured individuals to health services, but also to ensure that health plans provide enrollees with adequate benefits and that enrollees have protection from steep deductibles and other high out-of-pocket costs.”