New research presented at AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting (ARM) points to progress in the reduction of health care disparities in coverage, access and hospital readmission rates, but documents persisting gaps in areas such as physician selection.
“The United States has a health equity problem, and it will take both sound evidence and political will to fix it,” said Margo Edmunds, AcademyHealth vice president of evidence generation and translation, and director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Minority Engagement in Health Services Research. “The studies presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting help with the evidence part of the equation, shining light on the biases and structures that contribute to health inequality and evaluating the policy programs aiming to eliminate them.”
Key studies at this year’s ARM range from an examination of policies from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and their effect on disparities to a study that documents choice bias in patient selection of physicians and include:
- Does the Race/Ethnicity or Gender of a Physician’s Name Impact Patient Selection of the Physician?
Research from Jessica Greene, Ph.D., professor and Luciano Chair of health care policy at Baruch College, and lead study author, documented a pattern of preference among whites and males for white male physicians. If this hypothetical choice bias translates to people’s actual selection of physicians, it could be a contributing factor for why women and racial/ethnic minority physicians have lower incomes than white male physicians.
- Impact of Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program on Health Disparities
In comparing data of white and black patients before and after the introduction of an ACA program aimed at reducing hospital readmissions program, Jose Figueroa, M.D., instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and lead study author, found a slight reduction in disparities. However, authors note that federal policymakers should consider future changes to policy to ensure further gains in health equity under value-based care.
- Racial/Ethnic Variation in the Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Insurance Coverage and Access Among Young Adults
A provision of the ACA that allows young adults to remain on parental insurance plans until age 25 was found to have a significant positive effect for young adults acquiring health insurance and reducing cost-related barriers to accessing care. Research from Aurora VanGarde, M.P.H., and colleagues at Oregon State University found that while coverage increased across all racial/ethnic groups, increases varied by race and ethnicity. Black young adults had the highest percentage point increase, followed by Asian, Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. Despite these increases, whites continued to have the highest insured rates overall, pointing to persistent disparities. A similar pattern was documented in regards to cost-related barriers.
For more information about featured studies, please visit academyhealth.org/arm/pressroom.