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AHRQ Report Shows Gaps in Health Care Quality and Access Persist

May 23, 2014—The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) May 15 released new editions of the “National Healthcare Disparities Report” and the companion “National Healthcare Quality Report.” The 11th annual disparities report indicates that while quality of care slowly is improving overall, access is worsening and health care disparities, particularly for minorities and groups with lower socio-economic status, have seen little to no improvement.

The 2013 report, which draws on data from more than three dozen databases and presents trends through 2010/2011 for the majority of analyses, provides a snapshot of health care disparities prior to implementation of the insurance expansion included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152).

Since 2003, AHRQ has been congressionally mandated to report on the progress made and challenges to achieving health care equity in the United States. According to the 2013 report, notwithstanding overall improvements to health care quality for all racial/ethnic and income groups, significant gaps persist.

Compared with Whites, racial and ethnic minorities receive worse care across 25-40 percent of quality measures, and poor and low-income people receive worse care than individuals with high income for roughly 60 percent of quality measures – similar to findings from the 2012 report.

These disparities are even more pronounced for measures of health care access. Poor people had less access to care than wealthy Americans for all but one access measure, while Blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanics experienced decreased access for 33-60 percent of measures as compared with Whites.

The report also notes that while most disparities in quality and access are not changing, the number that were narrowing exceeded the number that were widening for most priority populations.

The “National Healthcare Disparities Report” also demonstrates that of the disparities that have shown improvement over time, the majority relate to HIV infection and patient perceptions of care, while disparities that are worsening relate to cancer screening and prevention as well as maternal and child health.


Philip M. Alberti, PhD
Senior Director, Health Equity Research and Policy
Telephone: 202-828-0522


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