When minority patients have insurance and a medical home, their health care improves

Providing minority patients a medical home in which they have a regular doctor or health professional who oversees and coordinates their care would help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities and promote more health care equity, says a new report from The Commonwealth Fund. The report, based on a 2006 survey of more than 2,830 adults, shows that linking minority patients with a health care setting that offers timely, well-organized care where they can routinely seek physicians and medical advice can help them better manage chronic conditions and obtain critical preventive care services.

According to the report, Closing the Divide: How Medical Homes Promote Equity in Health Care, in 2006 nearly one-half of Hispanics and more than one of four African Americans were uninsured at some point during the year. In contrast, 21 percent of whites and 18 percent of Asian Americans lacked coverage. In addition to being the groups most likely to go without health insurance, African Americans and Hispanics are least likely to have a regular doctor or source of care. While health insurance coverage is an important determinant of whether people can obtain essential care, the authors say insurance alone cannot eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health.

Insurance coverage helps people gain access to health care, but the next thing you have to ask is access to what" says lead co-author Anne Beal, M.D., senior program officer at the Commonwealth Fund. We found many disparities in care; however, disparities are not immutable. This survey shows if you can provide both insurance and access to a true medical home, racial and ethnic differences in getting needed medical care are often eliminated, she adds.

According to the report, patients have a medical home when they:

  • Have a regular provider or place of care
  • Report no difficulty contacting a provider by phone
  • Report no difficulty getting advice or medical care

Contact: Mary Mahon
Commonwealth Fund

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