Health Care Disparities Reduced Under ACA

Insurance coverage and use of care improves among minorities following reform.

Insurance coverage among different minorities and ethnic groups has improved since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a recent study indicates.

Conducted by the University of Maryland School of Public Health, the study found that African Americans and Latinos made significant gains in coverage since the legislation passed.

"Since the ACA took effect in 2014, the rates of uninsured African Americans and Latinos were reduced by 7%, as compared to 3% for whites," said Dr. Jie Chen, assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at Maryland. "We also found that these groups were more likely to visit a primary care doctor and receive timely health care than before the ACA coverage began."

The study evaluated data from the 2011-2014 National Health Interview Survey concerning health care access and utilization among US adults aged 18 to 64 years.

The results indicate the ACA made significant strides in decreasing care disparities among different racial and ethnic groups, including non-Latino whites, Latinos, and African Americans. The report noted these racial and ethnic minorities historically experienced greater disparities in insurance coverage and access to care, which resulted in significant gains since the ACA was enacted.

African Americans were found to have made greater gains through the ACA versus non-Latino whites because they are more likely to have gained coverage through Health Insurance Marketplaces and Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, smaller declines in the rate of uninsured among Latinos were attributed to Latino immigrants being more likely to reside in states not participating in Medicaid expansion.

Researchers further noted inadequate outreach regarding ACA eligibility, subsidies, and enrollment in the Latino community. The study authors said the ACA could further decrease ongoing disparities in health care access and utilization, with future research needed to explore quality and outcomes related to the ACA.

"While Latinos made smaller gains than African Americans in rates of insured, those who were eligible for health coverage were significantly less likely to delay or forgo health care, which is an important factor in improving health outcomes," Dr. Chen said.