BOSTON (June 13, 2023) – The economic burden of health inequities experienced by communities of color in Massachusetts totals nearly $6 billion annually and has broad implications for individuals, families, businesses and public and private stakeholders across the state, according to a study released today by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.
The study, commissioned by the Foundation in collaboration with the Health Equity Compact, and leveraging a national research model, is the first of its kind to quantify in economic terms the cost of health inequities for individuals and families, health care providers, employers, public and private sector payers, and the overall Massachusetts economy.
Researchers estimated the annual economic burden associated with health inequities experienced by Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian populations in Massachusetts totals $5.9 billion – a figure associated with a combination of avoidable medical spending and lost labor productivity due to poor health, and the cost of premature death. The study warned the burden is growing and will nearly double to $11.2 billion annually by 2050.
“The staggering economic toll of health disparities documented in this report, on top of the tragic human toll, makes clear that now is the time to shift from awareness of the problem to action on solutions,” said Audrey Shelto, President and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “Our Commonwealth led the way in expanding health insurance coverage and improving access, and we have a shared responsibility to act similarly to achieve health equity and eliminate health disparities.”
The study findings are being shared at today’s Health Equity Trends Summit in Boston, a convening of leaders for a public discussion on actions to accelerate and achieve breakthrough health equity reform across the Commonwealth. The event is hosted by the Health Equity Compact, a coalition of more than 70 leaders of color in health care, labor, business, academia and philanthropy advocating to advance health equity in Massachusetts.
“Addressing health inequities and resulting disparities has been a massive challenge, partially because we have lacked the data to comprehend the scale and magnitude of the problem, especially in terms of the human and financial toll. Without a true understanding of the scope of what we’re up against, it has been difficult to secure the necessary commitments and generate the urgency required to address these gaps,” said Michael Curry, Co-Founder of the Health Equity Compact and President & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “The Health Equity Compact is using the report’s findings to underscore this notion that Massachusetts will ‘pay now or pay greater later’ and to out the unacceptable cost being paid by communities of color, and inevitably by businesses. Now, our charge is to take this data and act. If not now, then when?”
Because communities of color have been disproportionately affected by health inequities historically, the report focused on the economic burden experienced by Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian populations in Massachusetts. The study analyzed costs associated with health inequities across all major racial and ethnic groups in Massachusetts, noting that the White population is also not at optimal health and the gap between that goal and their current level of health contributes to a total economic burden estimated at $23.5 billion annually.
The study’s lead researchers, Darrell Gaskin, Ph.D., and Thomas LaVeist, Ph.D., customized their research models for Massachusetts. Their models were pioneered more than 15 years ago, and were recently updated through a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
It has long been documented that communities of color face poorer health access, quality and outcomes. This report quantifies the economic burden in Massachusetts that reaches beyond the health and health care system to individuals and families, public and private sector stakeholders, and the overall Massachusetts economy in order to help make the case for this urgent call for action.
The study, titled The Time is Now: The $5.9 billion Case for Massachusetts Health Equity Reform, is available online at the following link:
About the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation
The mission of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation is to ensure equitable access to health care for all those in the Commonwealth who are economically, racially, culturally or socially marginalized. The Foundation was established in 2001 with an initial endowment from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. It operates separately from the company and is governed by its own Board of Directors. For more information, visit www.bluecrossmafoundation.org.