Medical Bills for Elderly People of Color Disproportionally Higher

A new study suggests the cost of healthcare is 25% higher for people of color, compared to white Americans.

In the United States, people spend a lot of money on healthcare, averaging approximately $4 trillion annually. When you’re sick, you’re not just spending money on healthcare but often need to take time off work. This means money is spent while not bringing in much income.

The study, published by gerontology researchers at The University of Massachusetts Boston looked into financial vulnerability of elders and conducted research to see if race and ethnicity made any difference in healthcare costs.

The team looked at the expense of healthcare to treat certain illnesses and considered the lack of work-reduced hours that elderly people had to encounter to prioritize their health. Experts sometimes link these two financial costs into a single term called "disease cost burden" estimate. The economic cost allows researchers to look at the total amount of money linked to individuals when they get sick. When the team analyzed the results, they found that Black and Latinos over 60 years old were more vulnerable to healthcare costs than non-Hispanic and white elders.

The team utilized a new measurement made by the Milken Institute to gather the approximate financial cost of healthcare and the lack of workers' compensation. The team suggested that Black or Hispanic elders with health complications and hindered careers had an average yearly bill of $22,734. The number is around 25% higher, or $4,500 more than white Americans.

Why is there a big difference?

A vital cause of this imbalance for elders is probably linked with a loss of income once they get sick. To clarify, the team found that 39% of people of color had reduced hours or work for their disease, compared to 17% of non-Hispanic white elders.

The team suggests that people of color are specifically unguarded to three elements:

  • They struggle more financially compared to white people.
  • Compared to non-Hispanic white elders, the health complications Black and Hispanic elders get are more expensive to treat.
  • They are more vulnerable to losing their job when they become sick.

In addition, based on the amount of money they lost in money as a result of illness, the team separated the elderly population into four groups. Elders who lost the least missed out on approximately $8,000 per year. The most affected individuals were forced to work with less than $30,000 per year compared to their usual income.

Then, they examined the connection between illness-related lost wages and mean household net wealth, a broad count of financial wealth that covers the cost of any property owned by a person. The team discovered that elders with chronic illnesses typically have the least money saved to spend on treatment. They also initiated that Black people and Latinos who suffer from chronic illnesses and are deprived of money for lost work have only 15% to 22% of older white people's net wealth.

The research team overall concluded that people of color predominantly have fewer assets to support themselves when faced with an illness.

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