People of color are experiencing higher rates of coronavirus, and preliminary data shows they are more likely to die from the disease. People of color are less likely to be insured, one of many barriers to helping them access quality health care. This grim news comes as President Trump continues to reject common sense measures to help reduce these disparities, such as opening a special enrollment period or encouraging holdout states to expand Medicaid during this crisis. 

Washington Post: The Coronavirus Is Infecting And Killing Black Americans At An Alarmingly High Rate. “As the novel coronavirus sweeps across the United States, it appears to be infecting and killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate, according to a Washington Post analysis of early data from jurisdictions across the country….A Post analysis of available data and census demographics shows that counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.” [Washington Post, 4/7/20

Politico: Health Professionals Warn Of ‘Explosion’ Of Coronavirus Cases In Minority Communities. “Covid-19 has pushed to the forefront longtime health disparities among black, brown, Native American and other minority populations in the country. Health professionals have warned that black and Latino populations are at potentially greater risk of severe illness from the coronavirus, due to prevalent comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and asthma. Minority groups are also less likely to have health insurance, complicating their ability and willingness to seek treatment for illnesses.” [Politico, 4/6/20

New York Times: Black Americans Face Alarming Rates Of Coronavirus Infection In Some States. “For many public health experts, the reasons behind the disparities are not difficult to explain, the result of longstanding structural inequalities. At a time when the authorities have advocated staying home as the best way to avoid the virus, black Americans disproportionately belong to part of the work force that does not have the luxury of working from home, experts said. That places them at high risk for contracting the highly infectious disease in transit or at work…Longstanding inequalities also make African-Americans less likely to be insured, and more likely to have existing health conditions and face racial bias that prevents them from getting proper treatment.” [New York Times, 4/7/20

The Hill: Black, Latino Communities Suffering Disproportionately From Coronavirus, Statistics Show. “Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, noted that Latinos are disproportionately affected by conditions like heart disease and diabetes and are already more likely to lack access to health care. “ [The Hill, 4/7/20

Vox: Covid-19 Is Disproportionately Taking Black Lives. “‘It’s almost like structural racism has made black people sick,’ Uché Blackstock, an emergency medicine physician in Brooklyn and the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, an organization that fights health care inequity, tells Vox…According to Blackstock, the pandemic is exposing a deep-rooted system of the haves and have-nots. It’s also displaying how black and brown people have a more tenuous existence in New York City since they lack job security, sick leave, and health insurance. They must ride public transportation to get to work on the front lines, many of them driving the buses themselves or cleaning the hospitals where they are directly at risk.” [Vox, 4/7/20

Axios: Coronavirus Hits Poor, Minority Communities Harder. “A slew of pre-existing disparities are contributing to this coronavirus disparity…Lower-income workers are less likely to have health insurance. They’re also less likely to be able to work from home, and therefore more likely to have to keep going to work and putting themselves at risk.” [Axios, 4/4/20

Kaiser Health News: Long-Standing Racial And Income Disparities Seen Creeping Into COVID-19 Care. “The biotech data firm Rubix Life Sciences, based in Lawrence, Massachusetts, reviewed recent billing information in several states and found that an African American with symptoms like cough and fever was less likely to be given one of the scarce coronavirus tests. Delays in diagnosis and treatment can be harmful, especially for racial or ethnic minority groups that have higher rates of certain diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease. Those chronic illnesses can lead to more severe cases of COVID-19.” [Kaiser Health News, 4/6/20

BACKGROUND:

Medicaid Expansion Helps Reduce Racial Disparities. Medicaid expansion played a key role in increasing coverage rates for communities of color. After the implementation of the ACA, gaps in insurance coverage narrowed the most in states that adopted Medicaid expansion. Today, a black person living in an expansion state is more likely to be insured than a white person residing in a state that rejected Medicaid expansion. Study after study showed that expansion improved health care outcomes for communities of color. 

A Special Enrollment Period Would Help Communities Of Color. People of color are far more likely to work in low-wage jobs that don’t provide health coverage. As millions of Americans are losing their jobs during this crisis, a special enrollment period would not only help those who lost employer-based insurance sign-up for coverage without onerous paperwork requirements, but it would also ensure those who were uninsured before the crisis gain comprehensive coverage. People with insurance are more likely to see a doctor when they are sick, and they are protected from steep medical bills that they could incur from coronavirus.