A new study published in Psychiatric Services claims that white adults suffering from mental illness are far more likely to report insufficient money for care and delays in treatment than those of other ethnicities.
According to the Mount Sinai study white adults suffering from mental illness were 50 per cent more likely than blacks to experience delays in care, and 20 per cent more likely than blacks to lack enough money for treatments such as doctor visits and prescription drugs.
For the study researchers examined the growing disparities reported by white adults with mental illness in their ability to receive health care compared to other racial and ethnic groups. The data they examined was from 200,000 respondents to the national survey data between 2006 and 2015 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers point out that a greater proportion of whites with serious psychological distress used private insurance cover-age compared to similarly distressed black and Hispanic adults, while black adults were more likely than whites and Hispanics to have Medicaid.
This is most likely because of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, which affected health coverage for white, black, and Hispanic adults with serious psychological distress for several years afterwards. While white adults with serious psychological distress may have been more likely to regain private insurance coverage as the economy returned to fuller employment, during periods of high unemployment they may have been at a disadvantage in not having the stability offered by Medicaid coverage, which is independent of employment.
The data set did not allow the researchers to compare the level of mental health benefits offered by private insurance plans versus Medicaid, but researchers said that was a question worth further study.
The research introduces the possibility that limited access to health care may contribute to the current reported increase in poor health outcomes in white middle-aged adults.
Among the study’s other findings were that women showed decreased health care utilization compared with men, validating earlier studies demonstrating that women were more likely than men to experience delays in care. The greatest proportion of white and black adults with serious psychological distress lived in the South. This region also had the greatest proportion with serious psychological distress and no health coverage. The results suggest that access to care was worse for patients living in states that were less likely to expand Medicaid access under the Affordable Care Act.