Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Access to and Quality of Health Care

Racial and ethnic disparities in access to care and quality of care are pervasive but not universal. This Synthesis reviews the evidence on racial and ethnic disparities. Key findings include: disparities exist in many indicators of access, such as having a usual source of care, number of ambulatory visits, and receiving recommended preventive care, but some disparities are reduced or nearly eliminated after adjusting for factors such as income and insurance coverage. Hispanics have a large gap relative to Whites in many access factors. Spanish-speaking Hispanics have the greatest disparities relative to non-Hispanic whites, suggesting language is a barrier. Both Blacks and Hispanics are less likely than Whites to identify a doctor’s office as their usual source of care, which can point to problems with continuity of care and less favorable outcomes. The most significant disparities in quality of care involve newer therapies and invasive procedures. Adjusting the data for insurance coverage demonstrates that expanding coverage will reduce but not eliminate disparities.