AHRQ Study Proposes Using New Life Expectancy Approach to Measure Racial, Ethnic Disparities
As a new way to measure health care disparities, a recent AHRQ study published in the October issue of Health Affairs analyzes health insurance status and medical need over a typical lifetime by ethnic group. This “life expectancy” approach can estimate the number of years that racial/ethnic groups are subject to “health insurance double jeopardy,” which the authors describe as the state of being uninsured while also in lesser health and therefore at higher risk of needing medical care. The researchers, AHRQ’s James Kirby and Toshiko Kaneda from the Population Reference Bureau, found that the expected years of life spent in “double jeopardy” were 11 years for Hispanics, 6 years for blacks, and 4 years for whites. The authors suggest this approach as a new way to monitor progress in eliminating disparities in insurance coverage, as called for by the Affordable Care Act. The study is titled, “‘Double Jeopardy’ Measure Suggests Blacks and Hispanics Face More Severe Disparities Than Previously Indicated.” Select to access the journal abstract on PubMed®.
Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Oct;32(10):1766-72. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2013.0434.
'Double jeopardy' measure suggests blacks and hispanics face more severe disparities than previously indicated.
Eliminating disparities in health and health care is a long-standing objective of the US government. Racial and ethnic differences in insurance coverage pose a major obstacle to achieving this objective. With important coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act beginning to take effect, we propose a new way of conceptualizing and quantifying the racial and ethnic disadvantages of uninsurance over the course of a lifetime. Using a life expectancy approach, we estimate the number of years whites, blacks, and Hispanics can expect to live in insurance "double jeopardy": being uninsured while also in lesser health and, therefore, at higher risk of needing medical care. Our measures indicate that compared to whites, Hispanics and blacks are more likely not only to be uninsured at any point throughout most of their lives, but also to spend more years uninsured and spend more of these uninsured years at high risk of needing medical care. These life expectancy measures-designed for ease of use by policy makers, researchers, and the general public-have the potential to reframe the discussion of disparities and monitor progress toward their elimination.
- [PubMed - in process]