(HealthDay News) — The economic burden of health disparities in the United States is very high, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers estimated the economic burden of health inequities for racial and ethnic minority populations and adults aged 25 years and older with less than a 4-year college degree in the United States.

In 2018, the estimated economic burden of racial and ethnic health inequities was $421 billion using the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and $451 billion using state-level Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data. The estimated burden of education-related health inequities was $940 billion using MEPS and $978 billion using BRFSS.

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The poor health of the Black population accounted for most of the economic burden. However, the burden attributable to American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander populations was disproportionately large relative to their share in the population.

Adults with a high school diploma or General Educational Development equivalency credential incurred most of the education-related economic burden. A disproportionate share of the burden was accounted for by adults with less than a high school diploma, who bore 26% of the costs despite making up 9% of the population.

“The economic burden of racial and ethnic and educational health inequities is unacceptably high,” the researchers wrote. “Federal, state, and local policy makers should continue to invest resources to develop research, policies, and practices to eliminate health inequities in the US.”

Several researchers disclosed ties to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts.

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