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Differences in incidence rates and unequal access to quality health care among certain population groups have received increasing attention since White House to the corporate world.

But disparities in health status are not just a matter of fairness and fairness. They are also expensive.

According to report Published this week by Deloitte, inequalities are currently costing the US healthcare system an estimated $320 billion. If action is not taken, the cost of health inequality could reach $1 trillion or more by 2040.

“Health inequity is not trending towards a crisis, we are in crisis mode right now,” said Andy Davis, Head of Health Practice at Deloitte Consulting LLP and one of the report’s authors. “Being able to quantify the impact of this disparity [have] health care spending, understanding its magnitude and the implications of that spending for everyone in society, we can show how widespread this crisis is today and how important it is to address it.”

Deloitte’s analysis is based on the quantification of unnecessary health care costs arising from structural inequalities and biases, especially those related to race, gender, and socioeconomic status, factors that tend to be interrelated and well documented.

The body of evidence suggests that women as well as people of color face prejudice that can lead to delayed care, missed diagnoses, medical errors and limited access to better treatments. Return visits looking for a diagnosis, later diagnoses when treatment can be more extensive, and loss of productivity when people are sick and unable to work are costly. The resulting costs could have been prevented by removing or reducing bias.

To quantify the avoidable costs associated with inequalities, Deloitte first identified total healthcare spending for several costly diseases, including breast cancer, diabetes, colorectal cancer, asthma, and heart disease, and then calculated the percentage of costs associated with inequalities for health.

The results show that documented differences in diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes come at a high cost.

For example, according to Office of Minority Affairs, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesBlack adults are 60% more likely than white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes and two to three times more likely to experience complications. The greater the burden of disease and the worse the outcomes, the more the disease will cost overall.

Some of these additional costs are due to bias and inequity. Deloitte estimates that this share represents 4.8% of annual US spending on diabetes, or nearly $16 billion a year.

On another dimension of inequality, people living below the federal poverty line are more than 50% more likely to have asthma than people with higher incomes, according to Deloitte’s analysis. According to Deloitte, these inequalities account for 4.3% of total asthma spending, equivalent to $2.4 billion a year.

“Understanding the causes and consequences of disparities in health care utilization and health outcomes by socioeconomic status, race and gender is important to ensure that advances in medical technology and medical knowledge leave no group behind.” said Anupam B. Jena, MD. , Ph.D., Ruth L. Newhouse, Professor of Health Policy in the Department of Health Policy at Harvard Medical School and contributor to the Deloitte effort.

Current health spending is reported to be growing at a compound annual growth rate of 5.3%, while spending due to health inequalities is growing at 6.2%.

Deloitte predicts that the consequences of health inequalities will cost Americans at least $3,000 a year by 2040—a threefold increase from current levels—whether they are directly affected by systemic inequalities or not.

“Not everyone is directly affected by systemic disparities in the care they receive, but everyone is affected financially…it makes it personal,” Davis said. “We know that this is the tip of the iceberg of the economic burden of those who suffer from inequality today. All this is an obstacle to the vision of a future in which every person has the opportunity to develop and be healthy.”

Davis said the authors hope the report will inspire health industry leaders to act, recognizing not only the moral imperative but also the business case for reducing health inequity.

“We deeply believe that playing a meaningful role in patient care today, taking action to close health inequalities, is the right thing to do and the most financially responsible,” he said.

This analysis also highlights the need for collective action, since, according to Davis, no single organization can do enough to improve equity alone.

“Often we have come across actions that can only go as far as your organization can reach, but that impact is kept to a minimum in scope,” Davies said. “Working together is the only way to solve this problem.”

The report calls on healthcare organizations across sectors to work to improve equity through deliberate product and service development, cross-sector partnerships, and measurement to measure progress.

For Davis, this effort is personal.

“With two young daughters, I feel the need to bring organizations together to drive change and be intentional in the actions we are taking now,” he said. “This is not someone else’s problem, but our common one, and none of us can ignore it.”

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