Over the past two decades, racial disparities in health status and medical treatments have been documented in numerous studies. Many researchers have noted that there has been little evidence that racial disparities in medical care have diminished significantly.

In the United States, regardless of whether it is medical treatment for asthma, cardiac disease, kidney disorders or mental illness, some Americans receive less than optimal or standard best medical therapies.

Additionally, it was noted that the poor as well as minorities in the United States receive less and poorer quality care as compared to their middle class and educated compatriots. This was due to their immigrant status, ethnic or racial identities, English language fluency, poverty, educational attainment or the type of residence (urban or rural).

Possible causes of racism in healthcare

In a theoretical analysis pertaining to this research, it was argued that participation rates in medical research and racial differences in medical care are grounded on professional ideologies in medicine and institutional racism. This in turn would lead to imbalances in power between the minorities and medicine’s elite professionals.

However, it is good to note that empirical studies that were done on racism and medical training are currently scant.

A research study was carried out to examine how the culture in medicine, the training of residents and medical students, and the organisation as well as healthcare delivery affected the treatment of patients in a way that produced clear and documented disparities in therapeutic action. According to the results, no clear relationship between the culture of training, medical hierarchy and professional ideologies that caused patterned disparities in patient care was identified.

This led the team to conclude that such relationships were likely to be subtle and multidimensional, and that the identification of the causes of care disparities will require additional observations of healthcare institutions when it comes to care and training.

Racism within the US healthcare sector

According to a report in 2013, Hispanics and Blacks have substantially high uninsured rates as compared to Whites. Additionally, while many individuals were looking towards the Affordable Care Act to address these inequalities, the act will not be able to remedy the several deeply rooted racial injustices in America’s healthcare system.

The ACA’s primary instrument to raise health coverage for the Blacks and Hispanics is the expansion of Medicaid to those whose income is less than 138% of the federal poverty level. However, the US Supreme Court ruled that states could choose to opt out of this, and 19 states are doing exactly that. This was despite the fact that Medicaid eligibility was meant to expand nationwide.

However, the greatest cause for concern is the problem of healthcare access. For instance, an audit of California’s Medicaid managed care system in 2015 had raised disturbing questions related to the adequacy of doctor networks for programme participants within that state.

In that same year, a study had revealed that state Medicaid programmes were limiting coverage of sufosbvir, a potentially life-saving medication for Hepatitis C - a condition that disproportionately affected the minorities.

Essentially, healthcare does not leave any room for discrimination and marginalisation. It is time to address subtle racism that is affecting the health of the very people that healthcare providers are pledged to protect and serve. MIMS

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