Dos Manzanas por Dia: Higher Health Costs for Latinos

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According to a study that appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine minority groups, in particular, blacks and Hispanics, have seemingly higher costs to pay in treatment while they are dying. 

Medicare costs in those final months averaged $20,166 for whites. Among blacks, they were $26,704, about 30 percent higher; and among Hispanics, $31,702 or almost 60 percent higher.”

You may be thinking that the medical procedures cost more, but no, it is more that Latino’s and Black’s tend to receive more intensive, expensive treatments towards the end of their life.   

Some very interesting aspects of the study not only revealthe divide in races among our health care system, but a divide in the cultural understandings as well.  Preventative health care measures may not be as accessible to minority groups, therefore expanding the costs later on as one’s heath deteriorates.  

Perhaps even more interesting about the findings of this study occurs on a historical angle: many minority communities do not trust the dominated Anglo-Saxon health care professionals.  The overall distrust that communities of color have for the dominant European-western health care system in the US that historically, has given reason for communities of color to raise an eyebrow (i.e.- Tuskegee syphilis experiment ). Differences in cultural beliefs (like having the belief that God will take care of the dying person, as opposed to medicine) as to the reason why the costs are higher.  This may be placing blame in the wrong hands, but it is something to consider.   

Some medical ethicists and primary care physicians really do wish to provide the best care possible to their patients, but without an understanding of the culture of the patient, there may come with it a clash.  The doctor must understand the culture and background of the patient.  It is not the job of the doctor to impose that of their patients, but it is to come to a correct medical assessment, and then make the best informed decision.

The greater questions arise: How is it a health care system does not bend and curve to fit the needs of the person, community or culture it MUST serve?

-Jules P.


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