Racial gap exists in prostate cancer cases, medical services

Published On: May 24 2012 02:00:44 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 07 2012 03:37:48 PM EDT
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(NewsUSA) - Raising awareness of the health disparities that continue to affect racial and ethnic minorities, as well as promoting the health care law's focus on preventive services, are two important goals of the Health and Human Services Department. Here's a look at what's being done to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, including increasing access to preventive services and health insurance.

Focusing on Prevention

Did you know that 41 percent of African Americans have high blood pressure, compared to only 22 percent of non-Hispanic white Americans? Did you also know that African-Americans are at a higher risk for prostate cancer and glaucoma? These are just a couple of examples of why increased awareness and access to preventive services are important factors in reducing health disparities.

The health care law expands coverage of preventive services. For example, all people with Medicare can get a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. The law also removes copayments and deductibles for recommended preventive services, such as mammograms, other cancer screenings, flu shots and cholesterol screenings. Costs of these services in the past posed a significant barrier to many in minority communities.

Expanding Access to Health Insurance

Lack of insurance is a significant driver of health care disparities. Thanks to the health care law, more than 1.2 million Hispanics, African Americans, Asian-Americans and American Indian/Alaska natives have already gained health insurance coverage. This is because young adults without employer-provided insurance can now stay on their parents' plans until age 26.

Starting in 2014, Health Insurance Exchanges will make buying health coverage easier and more affordable. These new Exchanges will offer one-stop shopping so individuals can compare prices, benefits and health plan performance on easy-to-use Web sites. The Exchanges will guarantee that all Americans -- including minority populations -- have a choice for quality, affordable health insurance, even if they lose a job, change jobs, move or become ill.

The gap in health outcomes will not change overnight. But with expanded access to health insurance, more covered preventive services -- many at no cost -- will help reduce health disparities and strive for health equity. To learn more, visit www.healthcare.gov.