Posted on August 21, 2021

Studies Show White People Still Dominate Health Care Spending in US

Virginia Langmaid, CNN, August 17, 2021

Two new studies published Tuesday show White people dominate health care spending across the United States, despite decades of efforts to equalize health care access.

The studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show per-person health care spending increased with age for every racial and ethnic group, but White individuals spent the most per-person than any other group.

For one study, a team at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine examined breakdowns of health care spending covering 7.3 million visits, hospital admission and prescriptions between 2002 and 2016. They found that in 2016, Whites accounted for 72% of the estimated $2.4 trillion in health care spending, while only making up 61% of the US population. In the same year, Black individuals made up 12% of the population but accounted for 11% of spending, and Hispanic individuals made up 18% of the population and but received 11% of total spending.

American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander individuals made up 6% of the population and accounted for an estimated 3% of health care spending, and American Indian and Alaska Native individuals made up 1% of the population, and received 1% of health care spending.

White people spent an estimated $8,941 per person on health care in 2016, the team found. This is around double of the estimated per-person spending of both Hispanic and Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander individuals.


A second study led by Dr. Harlan Krumholz and colleagues at Yale University found little has changed in 20 years. They examined surveys of nearly 600,000 people taken from 1999 to 2018. “Despite a wide variety of health care and social policies and markedly increased health care spending, health inequities persisted with modest evidence of progress,” they wrote.


“Structural factors in US society, including systemic racism and barriers associated with citizenship status, can contribute to such inequities.”