Military Medical Care, military, veterans

New Study Reveals Rank and Race Affects Military Medical Care

Protect our Black troops!

A newly published study reveals shocking statistics on how military care is contingent on race and rank. 

The study from Science shows, according to an analysis of over one million military ER visits, high-ranking military officers receive better resources and care than lower-ranking military officers. It also showed how race affects care. White physicians put forth less effort on Black patients — regardless of rank — as higher ranking Black officers received the same care provided to lower ranking white officers. “Simply being Black significantly reduces the effort provided by white physicians,” the study states. 

“This finding that white physicians exhibit a preference for prioritizing care for white patients over Black patients, irrespective of power status, underscores the need for ongoing efforts to address implicit biases and systemic inequities in the healthcare system.”

Higher-ranking officials received 3.6% more effort from doctors and resources, including tests, imaging, procedures, prescriptions for opioids, or more complex treatments. Those officers were 15% less likely than lower-ranking patients to have a poor outcome.

Lower-ranking military members seen by doctors who focus on higher-ranking patients were 3.4% more likely to have poorer results, such as being hospitalized or having to return to the ER within 30 days. The higher the difference between the doctor’s and patient’s rank, the less effort and resources the doctor gave. 

Study authors Stephen Schwab, a retired Army Lt. Col., and Manasvini Singh, health economist and assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon, admitted that conversations regarding health providers giving higher-status people better care were an open secret throughout hospital halls. “If a colonel is coming in, they’ll receive a text message from a superior or a colleague saying, ‘Know that a colonel is coming in, make sure to not have him wait,’” Singh said. 

A nurse midwife told Schwab that the spouses of wealthier officers were also given first-choice treatment. “They know this is happening,” he said.

The study’s premise, focusing on what the authors call the “long shadow” of power, used real data to examine the issue that’s been quiet — until now. 

Fellow experts, like Laura Nimmon of the University of British Columbia, acknowledged the research raises important questions about how medical education sufficiently addresses status, authority, and class bias.

“Efforts remain necessary to better understand facets of power, including the failures of education and healthcare systems to address the myth that physicians are perfectly altruistic and not corrupted by power,” she said, according to Barrons. 

According to the writers, the results require attention as they may affect the everyday lives of civilians as well. The study generalizes why Black students do better under the instruction of Black teachers and why landlords have a tendency to evict vulnerable tenants regardless of the cash value of missed payments being constant.

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