Altarum Releases New Estimate of the Cost of Health Disparities in Texas, Including Impacts of Covid 19

January 14, 2021

In Texas, as in much of the country, there are wide disparities by race and ethnicity in health and the drivers of health. For example, 23 percent of Hispanics and 21 percent of Blacks in Texas report that they are not in good health compared to 16 percent of Whites; infant mortality varies by a factor of two among racial and ethnic groups; and deaths from diabetes are 75 percent higher for Blacks than Whites in Texas.

While individual factors can be important predictors of some health conditions, the social determinants of health—such as a community's quality of air and water and access to healthy food and social support systems—have an even bigger impact on health and longevity. In Texas, Hispanic and Black families are more likely to be uninsured, have trouble affording health care, and live in communities deemed unsafe, all factors that can drive health disparities. And when crises like Covid-19 strike, these communities are more likely to suffer; Covid mortality rates in Texas are 80 percent higher for Hispanics and 30 percent higher for Blacks compared to Whites.

In our new report, we estimate for the state of Texas the economic burdens represented by differences in health for historically minority racial and ethnic groups, primarily the Hispanic and Black populations. Our analysis shows that disparities in health impose a substantial human cost and a significant economic burden to the state, including:

  • $2.7 billion in excess medical care spending annually;
  • $5 billion in lost productivity annually; and
  • 452,000 life years lost due to premature deaths, conservatively valued at $22.6 billion. 

If current disparities remain, we estimate by 2030 it will cost the state of Texas $3.4 billion in excess medical care spending annually, $6.1 billion in lost productivity annually, and 551,000 life years lost, conservatively valued at $27.6 billion.

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The Cost of Covid-19

We also estimate the economic impacts of health disparities among Blacks and Hispanics during the pandemic. If Black and Hispanic populations in Texas were hospitalized for Covid-19 at the same rates as non-Hispanic Whites, there would have been 24,000 fewer Covid-19 hospitalizations in Texas through September 2020. These hospitalizations represent an estimated $558 million in health care spending on the virus, health care resources that could have been saved or applied to meet other health needs. This figure does not account for the disproportionate human toll of stress and loss on Black and Hispanic families, the lost work time, or any long-term health impacts.

And if Black and Hispanic populations in Texas had the same mortality rates as their non-Hispanic White counterparts, there would have been 5,000 fewer deaths as of the end of September 2020, reducing the Covid-19 death toll in Texas by 30 percent, from 16,000 to 11,000. These premature deaths represent 60,000 life years lost, conservatively valued at $3 billion.

Most Texans say health care should be a priority and support more state spending on health programs. But there are always competing priorities for attention and resources. We hope this report will be a catalyst for investment in communities throughout the Lone Star State.

Read the report "Economic Impacts Of Health Disparities In Texas 2020 – An Update In The Time Of COVID-19".

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Altarum is a nonprofit organization that creates and implements solutions to advance health among at-risk and disenfranchised populations.