More than 2.2 million African Americans, representing 18.5% of working black adults in the United States, live without health insurance, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit health advocacy group in Princeton, New Jersey.
The foundation, which conducted a study on healthcare disparities from data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also found that 54.2% of uninsured African Americans did not have a primary care doctor and more than 20% described their overall health as “poor” or “fair.”
Hispanics are even more likely than African Americans to be uninsured. In 2003—the most recent data available—5.9 million Hispanic workers, or 35.3% of working Hispanics adults, had no form of health insurance. The percentage of uninsured workers from both groups was higher than that of whites, of whom 10.7 million, or 11.8 %, were uninsured.
The consequences of being uninsured are frightening for all races, the study found. About 43% of uninsured African American and Caucasian adults could not afford to see a doctor when they needed critical care, compared to roughly 37.7% of uninsured Hispanics.
“The economy is getting better, but because of the rate of inflation, employers are increasingly unable to afford healthcare for their employees,” said Adewale Troutman, director of the Louisville Metro Health Department in Kentucky.
In total, a lack of health insurance translated into 12.6 million Americans foregoing critical treatment—including 1.7 million African Americans.
Troutman says the healthcare gap within the working class will continue to widen. More adults are choosing to forgo treatment they can’t afford, which will most likely result in the need for more urgent and costly care later.