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Health care reform won’t boost access to care for minorities in Tennessee

CHATTANOOGA – Despite reform, minorities in Tennessee will continue to have less access to health care services and poorer health outcomes in general than other Tennesseans, according to the latest study by the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health InstituteSM.

The study entitled "Health Care Reform: the Impact on Minority Populations in Tennessee" looks at the barriers to care for minorities that will persist despite the expanded coverage and services that health care reform promotes.

"What we've found through this study is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will most likely have a favorable outcome on access to insurance coverage," said the study's lead author, Dr. Steven Coulter, president of the institute. "However, it will not necessarily translate to actual access to medical care for several reasons."

One of the purposes of the PPACA is to reduce or eliminate the disparity in coverage by race that currently exists. However, as the research finds, minority populations in Tennessee tend to be concentrated in geographic areas where health care facilities are already operating at capacity. This increased demand for care will lead to longer wait times at those doctors' offices accepting new patients. In particular, access to care in the west and east regions will be of greatest concern.

Favorable and unfavorable areas for minority care in Tennessee can be tracked by county, or down to ZIP-code level, through the new Health Care Access Index developed by the Health Institute.

This is the third report issued by the institute, a division of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, designed to provide decision makers a fact-based, intellectual framework for public discussions on health care policy matters. The report is available on the Tennessee Health Institute section of the BlueCross website.

Future research topics and presentations of the Tennessee Health Institute will focus on health care reimbursement variations, risk adjustment, and best-practice answers regarding the health status of Tennesseans.

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