Healthcare Inequality

Sooner or later, we all get sick, and we all need healthcare. 

Of course, not all Americans have equal access to healthcare. Some of us can’t afford it. Some live far from quality providers. Some experience prejudice based on race, sex, or gender identity. The result? Huge numbers of people suffer and die from health problems they could have avoided — if they’d had equal access to healthcare. 

The COVID-19 pandemic shines a light on a harsh truth. Black Americans are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than any other ethnic group. In some states, including DC, the mortality rate of Black Americans is 5 to 6 times as high as it is for White Americans. 

Experts say this is partly because chronic conditions that raise the risk of dying from COVID-19 — like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes — are more common in minority communities. But again, that’s often because these communities have less access to healthcare and health education. 

And yet, when it comes to healthcare costs, we all affect each other. No man, or social demographic, is an island. Everyone needs medical care at some point. 

That can mean cost-effective, regular preventive screenings — like mammograms and colonoscopies — that help people avoid health problems. 

But it can also mean high-priced treatments when chronic conditions go untreated. Insulin for diabetes. Chemotherapy for cancer. ER trips for heart attacks. 

Not to mention the avoidable pain, suffering, and death that disproportionately affects people of color. 

Untreated conditions require more expensive treatments down the line. And — whether it’s the person, the hospital, health insurance, or the government — someone has to pay for it. Low health literacy and less access to healthcare for some people means higher healthcare costs for everyone. Extreme events like a pandemic have a way of giving clarity to a murky situation. And if one thing’s been made clear, it’s that we need to fix racial health disparities — and aim for real healthcare equality. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.