HOUSTON – The health disparity gap between whites and minorities is costing Texas more than $4.6 billion a year, according to a new report.
The study by the Episcopal Health Foundation and the Methodist Healthcare ministries of South Texas, found that poorer health among Hispanic and black Texans leads to higher health care spending, lower productivity and a dramatic number of years lost to premature death.
Shao-Chee Sim, vice president for applied research with the Episcopal Health Foundation, says the high number of uninsured in Texas is driving the costs.
“To a large extent, health disparities are attributable to the lack of health insurance coverage,” he states. “Texas is the state not only with the highest number, but also the highest rate of uninsured in the country. And blacks and Hispanics – especially Hispanics – do have a high uninsured rate.”
Sim says higher health care costs total $1.7 billion, while lost productivity takes about $3 billion out of the Texas economy. He says if you add in premature deaths, the impact is closer to $20 billion.
Sim points out the study shows that in Texas, people of color are more likely to be born into a cycle of poverty, which tends to exaggerate health disparities.
“This study is to quantify the economic impact of health disparities,” he states. “Texas is one of the fastest growing states. It’s about 43 percent whites, 40 percent Hispanics. Texas is, in fact, a minority-majority state.”
The report recommends a number of policy changes, including expanding Medicaid, designed to close the health-disparity gap and boost the Texas economy.
“As we think about crafting future health policies or related legislation, we should really take into account the increasing diversity in Texas,” Sim stresses. “We need to address it accordingly.”
The state’s population is projected to grow by about 45 percent over the next 25 years, with Hispanics accounting for most of the increase.
Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service (TX)