News: Health disparities cost United States economy $451 billion in 2018, data reveals

CDI Strategies - Volume 17, Issue 21

Racial and ethnic health disparities cost the United States economy $451 billion in 2018, according to research from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). These costs are a 41% increase from the $320 billion estimated in 2014. The research also found health disparities for people without a college degree hit $978 billion in 2018, nearly two times greater than the annual growth rate of the economy that year, HealthLeaders reported.

The researchers used data from two surveys and two databases using medical care costs, lost labor market productivity, and premature deaths for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Black/African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino populations. Most of the economic burden found for the Black population, nearly 70%, was because of premature mortality. They also had the highest economic burden of racial and ethnic health inequities in 33 states.

Racial and ethnic health inequities were highest among some of the most populous and the diverse states:

  • Texas, $41 billion
  • California, $40 billion
  • Illinois, $29 billion
  • Florida, $27 billion
  • Georgia, $21 billion

These findings echo previous studies tracking the health disparities of ethnic and racial minorities in the United States. ACDIS members can read this guest column for a deeper dive into the state of minorities during COVID-19, as well as this physician advisor’s corner to learn about addressing health disparities.

The study noted that there is significant economic impact of racial, ethnic, and education-related health disparities on patients, but steps can be taken to eliminate the burden. Investments in initiatives that tackle such barriers to healthcare can have positive impact, as well as changes in policymaking at the state and federal level in areas the data shows high health inequity.

“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,” said Thomas LaVeist, Ph.D., dean of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and lead author in the study. “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.”

Editor’s note: To read HealthLeaders’ coverage of this story, click here. To read the NIMHD report, click here. The ACDIS Diversity and Inclusion Committee strives to make CDI a community that helps to promote a positive environment of greater diversity and inclusion. To learn more about its members and objectives, click here.

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