How Insurance Access Has Already Closed Racial Gaps

The Affordable Care Act was partly inspired by a smaller-scale law already in place—and this one has worked.

Photo by Shutterstock

By Chris Hoenig

Photo by Shutterstock

When Mitt Romney ran for President in 2012 on an anti–Affordable Care Act platform, he vowed to repeal the new healthcare law. But in 2006, as Governor of Massachusetts, he signed a statewide healthcare-reform law into effect that would later be used as a model for the Affordable Care Act.

Like the Affordable Care Act, Romney's bill expanded Medicaid for lower-income individuals and families, and required residents to purchase health insurance or face escalating fines.

Under the Massachusetts law, informally referred to as "Romneycare," racial gaps in access to surgery have been completely erased for minimally invasive procedures used to remove gallbladders and appendixes. "The Massachusetts experience provides a really unique and natural experiment to measure the effect of insurance expansion," said study author Dr. Andrew Loehrer of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (one of DiversityInc's Top 10 Hospital Systems). "At least here, it says increasing insurance coverage has a real effect on those disparities."

But Loehrer also added that the same approach might not completely close the nationwide gaps: "Massachusetts is unique among states for many reasons in terms of healthcare delivery."

Researchers credit the increase in insurance accessibility for erasing the gap, which had white residents five percentage points more likely to undergo laparoscopic surgery than Blacks or Latinos. They also compared the data to numbers from six other states: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Arizona, Florida and Washington. In those states, the racial gap for minimally invasive surgery nearly tripled during the same time period.

"In this study, it's much more likely that people who have symptoms will go to the doctor sooner [after insurance expansion] and will be better candidates for the minimally invasive surgery," said Amresh Hanchate, an Assistant Professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. In the past, experts said, uninsured Blacks and Latinos would have waited until their conditions were too advanced to be handled with the minimally invasive procedures, which use small incisions, thin instruments and cameras to complete the needed work with minimal trauma to the body. These patients would have required more traditional "open" surgery.

Blacks Much More Likely to Be Stopped Indoors in Philly Than Whites

Starbucks needs a corporate culture makeover — but it is not the only party at fault.

The arrest of two Black men who asked to use the bathroom at a Starbucks in Philadelphia was not an anomaly, according to a new analysis, further suggesting that a half-day implicit bias training is not likely to bring any actionable solutions.

Read More Show Less

Syracuse University Expels Fraternity over 'Racist, Sexist' Video

"The racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, ableist and sexist video was part of a Theta Tau sponsored event," Chancellor Kent Syverud said.


(Reuters) — Syracuse University has permanently expelled a fraternity after a video surfaced this week showing its members using racist and offensive terms in a skit the chapter said was satirical, a school official said on Saturday.

Read More Show Less

Beyoncé Brings Black Pride to Coachella

The superstar made African American culture the star of the show.


Beyoncé Knowles-Carter has carved a place in Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival history as the first Black woman to headline the event. The traditionally hipster/bohemian festival took a journey into Black America with Queen Bey at the helm.

Read More Show Less

Puerto Rico To Get $18.5 Billion To Rebuild Shattered Housing Market

Puerto Rico is navigating the largest bankruptcy in U.S. government history, and the plan is meant to establish economic projections for talks with creditors owed $120 billion in bond and pension debt.


(Reuters) — Puerto Rico will receive $18.5 billion from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help rebuild its battered housing stock and infrastructure after September's Hurricane Maria, the island's governor and HUD officials said on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less

Trump Administration Issues Rule Further Watering Down Obamacare

Administration has used its regulatory power to undermine Obamacare after the Republican-controlled Congress last year failed to repeal and replace the law.


(Reuters) — The Trump administration took additional steps to weaken Obamacare on Monday, allowing U.S. states to relax the rules on what insurers must cover and giving states more power to regulate their individual insurance markets.

Read More Show Less

As Elections Near, Many Older, Educated, White Voters Shift Away From Trump's Party

How they vote could decide elections in as many as 26 competitive congressional districts where Democrats have a shot at winning a seat.


(Reuters) — Older, white, educated voters helped Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Now, they are trending toward Democrats in such numbers that their ballots could tip the scales in tight congressional races from New Jersey to California, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll and a data analysis of competitive districts shows.

Read More Show Less