Health disparities represent a significant strand in the fabric of racial injustice in the United States, one that has proven exceptionally durable. Many millions of dollars have been invested in addressing racial disparities over the past three decades. Researchers have identified disparities, unpacked their causes, and tracked their trajectories, with only limited progress in narrowing the health gap between whites and racial and ethnic minorities. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the movement toward value-based payment methods for health care may supply a new avenue for addressing disparities. This Article argues that the ACA’s requirement that tax-exempt hospitals assess the health needs of their communities and take steps to address those needs presents a valuable opportunity to engage hospitals as partners in efforts to reduce racial health disparities. Whether hospitals will focus on disparities as they assess their communities’ health needs, however, is uncertain; preliminary reviews of hospitals’ initial compliance with the new requirement suggest that most did not. Relying on Professor Derrick Bell’s interest-convergence theory, this Article explores how hospitals’ economic interests may converge with interests in racial health justice. It presents two examples of interventions that could reduce disparities while saving hospitals money. The Article closes by identifying steps that health justice advocates, the federal government, and researchers should take to help, in Professor Bell’s words, “forge [the] fortuity” of interest convergence between hospitals and advocates for racial justice, and lead to progress in eliminating racial health disparities.
Black Health Matters: Disparities, Community Health, and Interest Convergence,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol22/iss1/3