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The Great American Recession and forgone healthcare: Do widened disparities between African-Americans and Whites remain?

Travers, Jasmine; Cohen, Catherine Crawford; Dick, Andrew W.; Stone, Patricia W.

Objective
During the Great Recession in America, African-Americans opted to forgo healthcare more than other racial/ethnic groups. It is not understood whether disparities in forgone care returned to pre-recession levels. Understanding healthcare utilization patterns is important for informing subsequent efforts to decrease healthcare disparities. Therefore, we examined changes in racial disparities in forgone care before, during, and after the Great Recession.

Design
Data were pooled from the 2006–2013 National Health Interview Survey. Forgone medical, mental, and prescription care due to affordability were assessed among African-Americans and Whites. Time periods were classified as: pre-recession (May 2006-November 2007), early recession (December 2007-November 2008), late recession (December 2008-May 2010) and post-recession (June 2010-December 2013). Multivariable logistic regressions of race, interacted with time periods, were used to identify disparities in forgone care controlling for other demographics, health insurance coverage, and having a usual place for medical care across time periods. Adjusted Wald tests were performed to identify significant changes in disparities across time periods.

Results
The sample consisted of 110,746 adults. African-Americans were more likely to forgo medical care during the post- recession compared to Whites (OR = 1.16, CI = 1.06, 1.26); changes in foregone medical care disparities were significant in that they increased in the post-recession period compared to the pre-recession (OR = 1.17, CI = 1.08, 1.28 and OR = 0.89, CI = 0.77, 1.04, respectively, adjusted Wald Test p-value < 0.01). No changes in disparities were seen in prescription and mental forgone care.

Conclusion
A persistent increase in forgone medical care disparities existed among African-Americans compared to Whites post-Great Recession and may be a result of outstanding issues related to healthcare access, cost, and quality. While health insurance is an important component of access to care, it alone should not be expected to remove these disparities due to other financial constraints. Additional strategies are necessary to close remaining gaps in care widened by the Great Recession.

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March 22, 2018
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