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Increased access to care insufficient for closing racial health gap, new studies find

A series of studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that while access to care has improved in recent years, the racial health gap has remained (Source: “Racial Inequities Persist in Health Care Despite Expanded Insurance,” New York Times, Aug. 17).

The new issue of JAMA offers studies on disparities in the utilization of health care services and in overall health spending. Together, the findings paint a portrait of a nation still plagued by medical haves and have-nots whose ability to benefit from scientific advances varies by race and ethnicity, despite the fact that the ACA greatly expanded insurance.

The racial health gap did not significantly narrow from 1999 to 2018, despite decreases in uninsured rates due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, according to one study whose author said it was tantamount to “a comprehensive national report card.”

Despite innovations like Medicare Advantage, which increased access to health care overall, Medicare beneficiaries who are minorities — defined as Black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian-Pacific Islander — still have less access than white or multiracial individuals to a physician who is a regular source of care.

Overall, Black women face a much higher risk of dying from pregnancy complications than white women, with maternal mortality rates of 41.7 per 100,000 live births for Black women, compared with 13.4 per 100,000 live births for white women.