(1) WHAT ARE HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE DISPARITIES? Health and health care disparities refer to differences in health and health care between population groups. Disparities occur across many dimensions, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, location, gender, disability status, and sexual orientation. (2) WHY DO HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE DISPARITIES MATTER? Disparities in health and health care not only affect the groups facing disparities, but also limit overall gains in quality of care and health for the broader population and result in unnecessary costs. Addressing health disparities is increasingly important as the population becomes more diverse. (3) WHAT IS THE STATUS OF DISPARITIES TODAY? Many groups are at disproportionate risk of being uninsured, lacking access to care, and experiencing worse health outcomes. For example, people of color and low-income individuals are more likely to be uninsured, face barriers to accessing care, and have higher rates of certain conditions compared to Whites and those at higher incomes. (4) WHAT ARE KEY INITIATIVES TO ADDRESS DISPARITIES? The Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage expansions helped narrow longstanding disparities in health coverage for people of color and low income individuals. The ACA also included other provisions focused on addressing disparities and the 2011 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Disparities Action Plan set out a series of priorities, strategies, actions, and goals to achieve a vision of "a nation free of disparities in health and health care." States, local communities, private organizations, and providers are also engaged in efforts to reduce health disparities. (5) WHAT IS AT STAKE FOR DISPARITIES LOOKING FORWARD? Although the ACA sharply reduced uninsured rates for people of color and low-income individuals, coverage disparities remain, and changing federal priorities could reverse recent progress reducing disparities. Continued enrollment efforts could further narrow coverage disparities, but the share of remaining nonelderly uninsured who are eligible for coverage varies by race and ethnicity. Moreover, recent reductions in funding for outreach and enrollment may limit continued coverage gains. Further, changing federal priorities could lead to coverage losses and other reverses in recent advances in reducing disparities.
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