Health insurance v. asthma

Having health insurance doesn’t eliminate Black-White disparities in asthma and its effects, according to a new study, which studied only children in the extensive Military Health System, who all have access to the same government-run healthcare in an HMO-style service. The press release says:

Black and Hispanic children were more likely to be diagnosed with asthma at all ages. Black children of all ages and Hispanic children age 5 to 10 were more likely to have potentially avoidable hospitalizations or emergency department visits related to asthma.

Whites were also more likely to see a specialist while Blacks were more likely to go to emergency rooms.

So, some of the asthma gap persists even when everyone has health insurance coverage. But access to insurance coverage per se isn’t the only thing that generates health inequality. Everything from health behavior and education to environmental conditions to racism in the medical system can contribute.

We shouldn’t be surprised that a gap persists even when people have access to medical care. However, when you compare the asthma prevalence rates in the Military Health System to those in the general population of children, in this report, which I covered previously, it appears asthma rates are lower among children in the military system, and the Black-White gap is lower as well.

Note: Includes children only. Total population rates from p. 21 of this report, military rates from this paper in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Universal health coverage can’t be counted on to eliminate race-ethnic gaps in health and health care, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

One thought on “Health insurance v. asthma

  1. Military dependents are likely a biased sample. A large component of military service is physical exercise, both in reality and in public imagination. This will affect to some degree who is a member due to both self-selection and qualification exams, so I’d venture to guess that asthma is less prevalent among members of the military than civilians. As genes (e.g. those affecting the mechanisms of the inflammatory response) make one more or less susceptible to asthma, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’d be less prevalent among the children of those members of the military, too.


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