Black patients far more likely to experience discrimination when seeking care: study

Dive Brief:

  • Black adults are significantly more likely to encounter discrimination when receiving healthcare than White patients, according to a new study by the Urban Institute underwritten by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • While 10.6% of Black adults said they had experienced some form of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation or health condition, the number was even higher among low-income Black adults (14.5%) and Black women (13.1%).
  • By comparison, just 3.6% of White adults say they have experienced some form of discrimination when seeking healthcare services. Among Latino adults, the rate was 4.5%. Overall, 5.1% of those surveyed said they had experienced some form of discrimination.

Dive Insight:

The recent reckoning on race relations, sparked in part by the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee of Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as well as attacks on Asian-Americans connected to the origins of COVID-19, has also shone a light on disparities during the pandemic.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, it has become clear that Black people and other minority groups are more likely to die from COVID-19 than White people, and racial gaps in receiving vaccinations persist. Many major providers and health insurers have issued long-term plans to address social determinants of health, but the new study indicates much work remains to be done.

The authors said it was a call to tackle racial inequities in healthcare delivery that can no longer be tolerated. “Discrimination and unfair judgment in a healthcare setting can result in serious ramifications to health and have cumulative adverse effects on people’s lives,” Urban Institute Research Associate Dulce Gonzalez said in a statement accompanying the report.

Systemic inequalities in U.S. healthcare are well-entrenched and ongoing. The study was published as an editor of JAMA recently resigned after denying structural racism in health in remarks during a podcast. The publication’s editor-in-chief was also placed on leave.

Among Black adults surveyed in the new research, 7.9% said their race or ethnicity was a factor for the discrimination, compared to 3% of all adults surveyed.

“The continued prevalence of discrimination and unfair treatment in healthcare settings, particularly for Black individuals, cannot be tolerated anymore,” RWJF Senior Program Officer Mona Shah said in the statement. “Tackling health inequities stemming from racism or unfair treatment requires public policy, industry practices, and medical education that builds trust and addresses implicit bias and the historical roots of racism in the medical system.”