How the ACA may be helping to close the ‘race gap’

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Chris Flavelle of Bloomberg View points out an unheralded achievement of the Affordable Care Act: It’s narrowing the race gap in health insurance.

In a recent opinion column summarizing research on insurance disparities and the ACA by Algernon Austin at the Center for Global Policy Solutions, Flavelle wrote:

“In 2013, the year before most of the law’s provisions for subsidized insurance took effect, non-elderly blacks were 47 percent more likely than whites to be uninsured. For American Indians, that figure was 93 percent; for Hispanics, 120 percent.

In 2014, not only did the share of whites without insurance fall; the share of blacks and Asian Americans fell by more. The difference between whites and Hispanics shrank, from 14 percentage points to 11.8 percentage points.”

He added that the gap closed completely for blacks and white age 18 and younger.

Disparities still exist – and one reason they aren’t closing faster is that about 20 states still refuse to accept federally financed Medicaid expansion under the ACA, which would help low-income minorities.

Flavelle speculates about why the Obama administration doesn’t publicly celebrate the health law’s achievements in race – and wonders if pointing that out might further dampen its already tepid support. “In that sense, not harping on race might be good strategy,” he writes. “Maybe the country’s fraught relationship with race means the only way to close the gap in health insurance is, in effect, by stealth.”

 

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