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The Cost of Ethnic Disparities

There is a plethora of research on health disparities between racial and ethnic groups, and much of the disparity is attributed to health access and socio-economic status. The Urban Institute recently revealed a fascinating paper that quantifies the actual cost burdens of racial and ethnic health disparities in the population. Excess rates of disease such as hypertension, diabetes, and stroke in African American and Hispanic communities added nearly $24 billion in medical costs in 2009, with nearly $6 billion of that falling on California alone. The costs over the next decade will total $337 billion. The report, that can be accessed here, includes some useful charts near the bottom that are predictive not only of excess cost but future mortality in these populations.

Reform includes new national directives to address health disparities, particularly those by race and ethnicity, by not only improving access for these populations but also improving chronic disease management, providing for culturally competent care, and creating incentives for healthy lifestyles. It is important to note that reform elements like these can not be scored by the CBO, and as such the realized savings can unfortunately not be included in reducing the perceived ‘costs’ of reform.