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Data: Doty, et al., 2020, "Income-Related Inequality In Affordability And Access To Primary Care In Eleven High Income Countries"; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Socioeconomic disparities in health care are significantly worse in the U.S. than in other wealthy countries, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund, published in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: Wealthy Americans have long had better access to care — and therefore better outcomes — than poor Americans. And the coronavirus' disproportionate impact on low-income Americans and people of color has made those disparities glaringly obvious.

What they found: "Adults with lower incomes in the U.S. were far more likely than those in the other high-income nations ... to go without needed health care because of costs, to face medical bill burdens, and to struggle to afford basic necessities such as housing and healthy food," the study's authors write.

  • Low-income adults are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions in the U.S. than in the 10 other high-income countries. During the pandemic, these underlying conditions have translated into a higher risk of serious coronavirus infections.
  • On every measure of health status, as well as affordability and access to primary care, the U.S. reported some of the largest income disparities.

Yes, but: Higher-income Americans were also more likely to forgo health care because of the cost than their affluent peers in most other countries.

Between the lines: The U.S. was the only country studied that doesn't have universal health coverage along with some form of cost protections.

  • The U.S. also underinvests in primary care, whereas most of the other countries in the study have national policies that support strong primary care.
  • We also invest less in social determinants of health and social services.

The bottom line: These disparities have real-world implications every day. But they've been vividly on display over the last nine months, as vulnerable populations have consistently been more likely to be infected by the virus and, ultimately, to die from it.

Go deeper

Scammers have stolen over $130 million in coronavirus-related schemes

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Over 100,000 Americans have collectively reported roughly $132 million in fraud losses from scams related to the coronavirus and government stimulus checks since the March start of the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Coronavirus-related fraud complaints peaked in May when the IRS began sending its first round of stimulus checks. Congress recently proposed a second round of stimulus.

Jan 26, 2021 - Health

Biden admin to boost COVID vaccine delivery to states for at least 3 weeks

Vice President Harris receives her second COVID-19 vaccine dose in Bethesda, Maryland, on Jan. 26. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration plans to increase its COVID-19 vaccine shipments to states and tribes from 8.6 million doses per week to 10 million for at least the next three weeks, as part of an effort to vaccinate the majority of the U.S. population by the end of this summer.

Why it matters: Hospitals in states across the U.S. say they are running out of vaccines and the country's death toll is sharply rising.

AAPI leaders praise order on discrimination but say Biden needs to do more to "prioritize" community

President Biden on the left. Rep. Judy Chu on the right. Photos: Doug Mills-Pool (left) and Paul Morigi/WireImage for The Recording Academy (right) via Getty

Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) lawmakers, community organizers and advocacy groups commended President Biden's Tuesday order directing an examination of anti-Asian bias and discrimination, but pushed the administration to commit to stronger action.

Why it matters: Anti-Asian hate crimes have surged since the pandemic began, reaching more than 2,500 in August according to Stop AAPI Hate, an initiative that tracks anti-AAPI racism.

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