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A report from the Commonwealth Fund highlights racial inequities in Florida's health care system

chart comparing the performance of various state's health care systems for different racial and ethnic groups
Commonwealth Fund
Florida's health care system performs much better for whites and Asian Americans that it does for Black, Latinx and Native American residents.

Researchers are calling for policy changes to improve health equity. They say one way Florida can do that is by expanding Medicaid.

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund is highlighting racial inequities in the nation's health care system.

Researchers measured factors related to access and quality of health care in each state as well as the health outcomes of residents.

They found Florida's health care system performs much better for whites and Asian Americans than it does for Black, Latinx, and Native American residents.

CLOSER LOOK: Click here to view Florida's health equity scorecard

For example, David Radley, senior scientist with the fund, said what's known as the "preventable mortality" rate for Black individuals was about 1.5 times higher than it was for whites. That looks at deaths that could have been avoided had people had timely access to health services.

He also said the uninsured rate for Latinx residents was almost double the rate for white residents, though he added Florida had a much higher portion of Latinx people with health coverage than other states with large populations of that ethnic group like Texas.

“There's opportunities to improve equity by making sure that people can access the care delivery system when they're sick, and one of the ways that that can happen in Florida is by expanding the Medicaid program,” said Radley.

Florida is one of a dozen states that have yet to expand this health insurance program for low-income individuals and families, many of whom are people of color.

RELATED: The pandemic strained mental health for Black Americans. It’s also amplifying calls for change

The study looked at data from 2019 and 2020, so much of it was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. Disparities have likely gotten worse, according to Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, vice president of advancing health equity with the fund.

But she said one positive outcome of the pandemic is that now more people are talking about improving equity.

“I think for many, the pandemic has highlighted the impact of structural racism and how not having access to adequate housing, having access to health insurance or having the ability to work from home really impacts health and health care,” she said.

Zephyrin said in addition to expanding access to insurance, states can invest more in social services, strengthen primary care and hire more providers of color to reduce racial disparities in health outcomes.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.