COVID-19 has laid bare and will likely exacerbate the glaring inequity faced by communities of color due to a “constellation” of factors. Communities of color have an increased risk of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality because of a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions (e.g., hypertension and diabetes) compared to whites. These COVID-19-related health disparities, driven by economic and social issues (e.g., living conditions and employment), are compounded by the physical and psychological effects of a legacy of discrimination and racism for these individuals.

Given Medicaid’s role in delivering care to low-income individuals, including many in Black and Hispanic communities, the program is uniquely situated to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and address related health disparities. Medicaid agencies can leverage existing and new authorities, enabled through recent COVID-19 federal regulatory flexibilities, to develop a broad plan for addressing disparities in the near-and long-term.

In this Health Affairs blog post, Shilpa Patel, PhD, senior program officer and Tricia McGinnis, MPP, MPH, executive vice president at the Center for Health Care Strategies, outline opportunities for Medicaid to address health disparities experienced by communities of color and exacerbated by COVID-19.

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