The Washington Post

D.C. poll: Racial and class divides on health care

Black and white residents of Washington report vastly different experiences in health-care access in a new poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

African Americans in the city are much less likely than whites to have private health insurance, to have recently visited a dentist or to see a private doctor for routine care. And blacks overall are more likely than whites to have trouble paying medical bills and to have delayed care over the past year.

But comparing only wealthier black and white residents (those with household incomes of $100,000 or more), the racial differences are minimized, if not erased altogether.

Eight in 10 whites usually visit a private doctor when they are sick or seeking medical advice. That falls to 58 percent among blacks. But about equal numbers of wealthy blacks and whites usually go to a private doctor for care, 83 and 84 percent respectively.

There is a wide racial gap on dental care; 80 percent of whites say they have visited a dentist in the past year, falling to 59 percent for blacks. That 21-point gap is narrowed to 8 points between higher-income blacks and whites.

At a whopping 44 percentage points, the disparity in reported access to private health insurance is the widest racial gap in the entire survey. But that gap shrinks considerably – to 17 points – between whites and blacks making more than $100,000 a year.

Racial differences on affording health care are not quite as stark. But the gaps that do exist virtually disappear among higher-income blacks and whites.

Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.


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