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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The inequalities in American health care extend right into the hospital: Cash-strapped safety-net hospitals treat more people of color, while wealthier facilities treat more white patients.

Why it matters: Safety-net hospitals lack the money, equipment and other resources of their more affluent counterparts, which makes providing critical care more difficult and exacerbates disparities in health outcomes.

The big picture: A majority of patients who go to safety-net hospitals are black or Hispanic; 40% are either on Medicaid or uninsured.

The other side: Wealthy hospitals, including many prominent academic medical centers, are "far less likely to serve or treat black and low-income patients even though those patients may live in their backyards," said Arrianna Planey, an incoming health policy professor at the University of North Carolina.

  • An investigation by the Boston Globe in 2017 found black people in Boston "are less likely to get care at several of the city’s elite hospitals than if you are white."
  • The Cleveland Clinic has expanded into a global icon for health care, but rarely cares for those in the black neighborhoods that surround its campus, Dan Diamond of Politico reported in 2017.

Between the lines: The way the federal government is bailing out hospitals for the revenues they've lost during coronavirus is exacerbating this inequality. More money is flowing to richer hospitals.

  • For example, the main hospital within University of Colorado Health has gotten $79.3 million from the government's main "provider relief" fund — about the same amount as Cook County Health, Chicago's public hospital system, which predominantly treats low-income black and Hispanic people. It has gotten $77.6 million from that pot.
  • The Colorado system, however, is sitting on billions of dollars in cash and investments that Chicago's safety-net hospitals don't have. Chicago has also seen a worse coronavirus outbreak.

The bottom line: Poor hospitals that treat minorities have had to rely on GoFundMe pages and beg for ventilators during the pandemic, while richer systems move ahead with new hospital construction plans.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Sep 15, 2020 - Health

NIH director: Access to opioid addiction treatment is lagging in the pandemic

Axios' Caitlin Owens and Linda Porter, director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health.

Opioid overdoses have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, Linda Porter, director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health, said on Tuesday during an Axios virtual event.

What's happening: People with opioid-use disorder have had "an extremely difficult time" getting medical treatment or behavioral therapy during the pandemic, Porter said.

Sep 16, 2020 - World

India's coronavirus case numbers surge past 5 million

A health care worker checks the temperature of a girl in Mumbai, India. Photo: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

India's coronavirus cases surpassed 5 million on Wednesday morning, Johns Hopkins data shows.

Why it matters: Only the U.S. has more cases (over 6.6 million). India has the fastest-growing number of daily infections — more than 90,000 each day for the five days leading up to Tuesday, the BBC notes. The country of 1.4 billion people surpassed 4 million cases on Sept. 4. India imposed lockdown measures that saw businesses close in March, but these have since eased despite soaring cases as the government aims to revive a struggling economy.