Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the Affordable Care Act: a Status Update

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2015 Dec;2(4):583-8. doi: 10.1007/s40615-015-0113-z. Epub 2015 Jul 3.


Persistent racial and ethnic health disparities exist in the USA, despite decades of research and public health initiatives. Several factors contribute to health disparities, including (but not limited to) implicit provider bias, access to health care, social determinants, and biological factors. Disparities in health by race/ethnicity are unacceptable and correctable. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a comprehensive legislation that is focused on improving health care access, quality, and cost control. This health care reform includes specific provisions which focus on preventive care, the standardized collection of data on race, ethnicity, primary language and disability status, and health information technology. Although some provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have not been implemented, such as funding for the U.S. Public Health Sciences track, which would have addressed the shortage of medical professionals in the USA who are trained to use patient-centered, interdisciplinary, and care coordination approaches, this legislation is still poised to make great strides toward eliminating health disparities. The purpose of this manuscript is to highlight the unprecedented opportunities that exist for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in health in the USA.

Keywords: Affordable care act; Health disparities; Health policy; Health reform; Race/ethnicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Continental Population Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Care Reform / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Care Reform / organization & administration
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act*
  • United States