BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- It's old news we are not all treated equal in the United States, but research suggests race looms large when it comes to inequalities in health status and care, and at enormous cost to the nation's economy.
A study last month in the International Journal of Men's Health found that the U.S. economy took a $96.8 billion hit between 2006 and 2009 in excess medical costs due to inequalities in health for African-American men, or $24.2 million annually. Remarkably, no direct excess costs from health disparities were detected for other racial or ethnic groups.
"While much of the research in men's health disparities has focused on understanding the social, behavioral and biological factors that underlie such inequalities, little attention has been given to their economic consequences," the paper said.
The study, based on research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, analyzed the direct and indirect costs of health inequalities, as well as the potential cost savings of addressing the disparities.
"Health disparities have a devastating impact on individuals and families, and they also affect society as a whole," said Roland J. Thorpe, assistant professor at the school and lead author of the study, in a press release. "These stark findings underscore the fact that we can't afford to overlook men's health disparities that exist in this country."
The study's findings are based on data from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality's 2006-09 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Researchers used the survey to determine the prevalence of a variety of health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease by race category, including African-American, Asian, Hispanic and white. This information was included in statistical models to estimate the total direct and indirect medical costs and, from there, the proportion of costs due to health disparities for each ethnic group.