NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 27, 2004

African-Americans receive a lower quality of care from physicians than do whites, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data on 150,391 office visits to 4,355 primary care physicians. Patients were both black and white Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and over. The study revealed:

  • Eighty percent of black patients' visits were accounted for by only 22 percent of the physicians in the sample.
  • Physicians visited by black patients were less likely to be board certified (77.4 percent) in their primary care specialty compared to white patients (86.1 percent).
  • Physicians treating black patients reported they could not always provide high-quality health care to all of their patients (27.8 percent) compared to physicians treating primarily white patients (19.3 percent).
  • Screening rates for diseases are lower among black patients than white patients, but previous studies have indicated that this is likely due to the qualifications of the physician, such as whether or not they are board certified in their specialty.

Moreover, physicians treating black patients reported greater difficulty in obtaining high-quality diagnostic equipment, sub-specialists and nonemergency hospital admissions.

The study also revealed that black patients generally prefer seeking care from physicians of their own race, even if other physicians are available in the area.

Source: Peter Bach et al., "Primary Care Physicians Who Treat Blacks and Whites," New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 351, No. 6, August 5, 2004.

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