By Nancy Glynn, Lynn Carpenter, and Gary Sobelson, M.D.
The (Concord, N.H.) Monitor, Our Turn, June 16, 2020
Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane. – Martin Luther King Jr., 1966
The graphic image of one man’s death did more than break hearts – it opened the floodgates of memories, and generations of systemic racism and injustice. In one of our darkest hours, it reminded us that not all Americans are treated equally. And this is not a problem for some, but a problem for every one of us. If some of our leaders try to divide us in a fog of hatred, we need to speak out.
The issue at hand is equity – disparate results from our education, health care, and justice systems based on the tone of one’s skin. New research by Protect Our Care finds that African Americans are far more likely to face barriers to accessing health care and protecting themselves from the coronavirus. Additionally, due to a variety of social and economic factors, they are more likely to suffer the brunt of the financial consequences of the pandemic. And that is true right here in New Hampshire. African Americans account for 5.7% of COVID-19 cases, while making up less than 2% of the population.
This is not a new issue, but it is one that we have not given enough attention to, and now we are paying a human price for.
In New Hampshire, African Americans are more likely to lack insurance coverage. According to USA Today, “while the Affordable Care Act helped many people of color get health coverage, many still don’t have insurance and access to providers. According to the Census, 8.5% of whites were uninsured in 2017, compared to 10.6% of African Americans, 7.3% for Asian Americans and 16.1% for Hispanics.” And, the research found that black Americans have higher rates of chronic illnesses – putting them at a higher risk of contracting and dying from the coronavirus.
All that is compounded by the fact that 19% of African Americans were unable to see a physician in 2018 due to lack of coverage or cost.
There are times we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. And, we don’t like what we have become. Last week, many of us felt that way. The deep-rooted political divide that has fractured our society ran up against one of the most tragic parts of our national legacy – racism and intolerance.
America lost George Floyd to unspeakable brutality on May 25 and countless other African Americans before him. New Hampshire has lost far too many people to the coronavirus and failed to provide health care to many in need. This is our wake-up call: We need a health care system that is fair, accessible, and does not discriminate against people of color here in New Hampshire. It is time to make it our top priority to close these gaps, to embrace tolerance, and celebrate diversity. These are deep and very old wounds, we need to heal them, and heal ourselves.