AHRQ: Care disparities persist despite progress

Despite improvements in both care access and care quality, a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) finds racial and economic disparities persist in healthcare.

In the first half of the decade, white people saw no increase in percentage of people with a usual source of medical care, but the percentage increased for black people and Hispanics. However, across the same timeframe, black and Hispanic patients were both less likely than white patients to have a regular place to go when they needed care.

Meanwhile, people who live below the federal poverty line continue to have worse access to care. Racial disparities were slightly larger for Hispanics, who had worse access than whites on two-thirds of measures, than for blacks, who had worse access than whites on about half of measures. Asians, Alaska Natives and American Indians fell behind white patients on about a third of measures.

Care quality disparities persisted as well, with black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native patients all receiving worse care than white ones for about 40 percent of quality measures, echoing access disparities for each group. Such imbalances were more common for measures of care coordination and person-centered care, according to the report. About 40 percent of disparities for both poor patients and black, Hispanic and Asian patients shrank over 2013.

General care quality improved through 2013, but the pace varied, according to the report. About 80 percent of person-centered care measures improved, compared to 60 percent of effective treatment, patient safety and health living measures and fewer than half of care coordination measures.

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched a wide-ranging assault on care disparities, premiering a tool to track race, class and gender imbalances in outcomes as well as expanding the Office of Minority Health's From Coverage to Care Program.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)
- here's the introduction (.pdf)