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Health & Fitness
Failing health in U.S. equals rising costs
By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer-
Updated Dec 13, 2012 - 4:23:40 PM

(FinalCall.com) - Having poor health in the U.S. costs money, and not just a small amount, but billions of dollars. Ultimately, those costs are heaped on the backs of poor and minority communities.

Health disparities as a whole, which disproportionately affect Blacks and Latinos cost the U.S. economy $82.2 billion in direct health care spending and lost productivity in 2009. The price tag for Blacks was a whopping $54.9 million followed by $22 billion for Latinos. And over 90 percent of these same costs felt were in urban areas.

This among other issues makes eliminating health disparities a national issue, according to “The State of Urban Health: Eliminating Health Disparities to Save Lives and Cut Costs,” the recently released report by the National Urban League Policy Institute.

Health disparities inflict a significant level of illness, disability, and death on the nation. In addition to the excess disease and death, health disparities also impose a significant economic burden on society said report findings.

And for a nation teetering close to the edge of the “fiscal cliff,” rising health costs could send it careening not only now, but in years to come. “It is important for policymakers and the public to understand the economic burden of illness and disease. Cost of illness studies help policymakers make judgments about the size of investment society should make to combat a particular illness or disease,” said the report which was prepared by a trio of health policy professors.

Other findings of the report included:

• African Americans in Midwestern urban areas bear a disproportionate share of health care spending – they are 6.5 percent of minority adults, but bear 15.5 percent of health care spending costs.

• For Hispanics, those living in the Northeast bear a disproportionate share of health care costs with 14.1 percent of the Hispanic population but 35 percent of the costs.

• Health disparities reduced labor market productivity by $22.3 billion.

• Hispanics bore the highest costs due to lower productivity ($9.8 billion) followed by African Americans ($9.6 billion).

It will take the collective efforts of community based organizations, individuals and governmental policies working in tandem to strategize on effective ways to address health disparities. The spending and investment in programs are “modest” compared to the amount of money inaction or cuts and eliminating current programs will cost the country in the long run notes the report.

Based on current trends health disparities will cost the U.S. $126 billion in 2020 and $363.1 billion in 2050. If the Affordable Care Act is successful in expanding private insurance and Medicaid coverage costs will continue to go up if factors influencing health disparities are not addressed says the report.

Recommendations included in the report to eliminate disparities and “help realize the promise of the ACA” include protecting Medicare in the budget and incentivizing Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is a major source of health care coverage for Blacks in the U.S.

Other recommendations included health insurance enrollment campaigns that target minorities, funding community-based groups that can promote effective health programs, increasing the number of minority health care professionals and fully funding community health worker programs.

Related news:

Supreme Court hears 'Obamacare' arguments (FCN, 04-05-2012)

Bridging the gap in health care coverage for children (FCN, 06-27-2010)

Harvard study: 45,000 uninsured Americans die every year (FCN, 09-24-2009)

Congressional cowards and health care reform (FCN, 07-07-2009)

The connection between wealth and health (FCN, 06-06-2006)

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