The ACA and health disparities

12/7/2014 feature story

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Helen Levy
Thomas C. Buchmueller

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How Will the Affordable Care Act Affect Health Disparities?

The benefits of better health and longer life have not been shared equally across all groups in society. For example, the average life expectancy of blacks is 4 years shorter than that of whites, and 13 years shorter in the nation's capital (Kaiser 2010b). Differences in health insurance coverage may contribute to such disparities. Based on pooled 2008-2012 data for nonelderly adults -- prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- 24% of blacks and 40% of Hispanics were uninsured, compared with 16% of white Americans. Although the ACA has the potential to reduce racial/ethnic coverage disparities, this may not translate into reduced disparities in health. In this project, we examine the likely effects of the ACA on racial health disparities. Our goal is to provide a concise and readable overview of issues for disparities researchers who may not be familiar with the ACA, as well as for researchers and practitioners who are familiar with the ACA but not with the Act's ramifications for disparities in health.

Thomas C. Buchmueller, Helen Levy

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