January 7, 2013

Along with job losses caused by the recession between 2007 and 2009, many Americans lost health insurance coverage and were less likely to utilize health care services as a result. Twenty five percent of African Americans and Hispanics lost their jobs during the recession, compared to 15 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and were thus more likely to lose health insurance. A newly published analysis from the University of Maryland School of Public Health examined the relationship between the economic downturn (2007-2009) and the use of health care services by African-Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites.

The lead researchers were Dr. Karoline Mortensen and Dr. Jie Chen, both assistant professors of health services administration. When they examined the pre-recession period between 2005 and 2006, Dr. Mortensen and Dr. Chen found downward trends in physician visits, prescription drug fills, and use of inpatient services among whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. They report that both before and during the recession, African-Americans and Hispanics were less likely to visit a physician and fill prescriptions than whites. African Americans had higher use of inpatient and emergency department visits during both periods. Hispanics showed greater reductions in physician visits than whites or African Americans in the recession period, the only evidence of disparities widening during the recession. 

“We were expecting a significant reduction in health care use, particularly for minorities,” said Dr. Mortensen. “We were surprised that the only disparity we saw was the greater reduction in physician visits by Hispanics.”

To read more, click here.

[Photo: Dr. Karoline Mortensen and Dr. Jie Chen]