One in 4 older Black and Hispanic Americans have felt discriminated against by doctors and other health care professionals who have ignored their health concerns or treated them unfairly, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report.
The report authors suggest that the perceived disparities have real consequences. Those who have experienced discrimination in a health care setting were more likely to have worse health status, face economic hardships and be more dissatisfied with their care than those who did not experience discrimination.
“The consequences of health care discrimination against older adults of color are serious. People are not getting the care they need, their concerns are being ignored, and their health is suffering as a result. As a society, we can work to end discrimination in the health system, first by recognizing discrimination and then actively working to dismantle it,” Michelle M. Doty, lead study author and Commonwealth Fund vice president for organizational effectiveness, survey research and evaluation, said in a statement.
The report, “How Discrimination in Health Care Affects Older Americans, and What Health Systems and Providers Can Do,” was based primarily on an analysis of the Commonwealth Fund 2021 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults. The survey of 1,969 U.S. adults age 60 and older was conducted from March 11 to May 27, 2021. In clinics, hospitals or doctor offices, discrimination can include providers dismissing a patient’s symptoms or health concerns, offering different treatment based on a patient’s type of insurance, or not providing care in a patient’s preferred language, according to the report.