Employers can improve Black, Latino employees’ healthcare perceptions, report finds

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Dive Brief:

  • Black and Latino patients in the U.S. tend to perceive that they receive lower quality healthcare compared to their White counterparts, but stakeholders — including employers — could play a role in improving patient experience for these populations, according to a McKinsey & Co. report.
  • The consulting firm found that access is a particularly impactful factor that Black and Latino patients consider when evaluating care quality. Employers may be able to improve access by improving benefits education, including helping workers understand which services their plans cover and how coverage is determined, McKinsey & Co. said.
  • Black and Latino patients were more likely than White patients to say that they had deferred care due to costs. Black and Latino patients were also more likely to say that they had more than $1,000 in medical debt. Employers could ease affordability by creating tiered health premium structures within their plans to ensure lower-income employees can still participate, McKinsey & Co. said.

Dive Insight:

Racial disparities in healthcare have become point of focus for employers during the pandemic, not least because of COVID-19’s impacts. According to a February analysis by Kaiser Family Foundation, cumulative data showed that Hispanic individuals represented a larger share of COVID-19 cases relative to the total population, whereas Black individuals represented a slightly higher share of deaths compared to the total population.

Other diseases show similar disparate impacts. According to a March 2022 report published by the Northeast Business Group on Health, Black, Indigenous and people of color populations had disproportionate rates of obesity and diabetes. The report also found that inequities in care access were a major driver in health disparities.

A previous NEBGH report found that, although employers increased investments in healthcare benefits in recent years, few of these efforts addressed social determinants of health — such as education access and quality, economic stability and social and community factors — that can negatively affect patient outcomes. Past research also found a direct link between productivity and the inability of low-income workers to obtain medical care. A 2019 Integrated Benefits Institute study found that employees with cost barriers to care had an average of 1.9 more lost workdays per year than low-income workers without such barriers.

Some employers have sought to address the dual issues of cost and access via virtual healthcare pathways, such as telehealth, although sources previously told HR Dive that such solutions are not necessarily equitable in and of themselves. Whether care takes place in-person or virtually, employers may need to seek out providers who can better treat diverse populations.

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