Assessing Changes in Access to Health care and Utilization of Preventive Services among Immigrants of African Descent Before and After Implementation of the Affordable Care Act

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In the U.S., African Americans experience a disproportionate burden of health disparities. The African American population includes 4.3 million people who are foreign-born. Yet, a paucity of empirical data exists on the health of immigrants of African descent. The lack of data disaggregation by subpopulations of African Americans, disregards the unique characterization of the African American diaspora and the influence of different cultural, linguistic, political, social, economic, environmental, and historical experience on the overall health of the population.

Access to health care including lack of health insurance coverage has been a longstanding contributor to poor health outcomes among African Americans. The passage of the Affordable Care Act aimed to improve access to care including health insurance coverage and utilization of preventive services with no cost-sharing. Studies have shown significant reductions in the uninsured rate among African Americans and uptake in some preventive services, but the impact of the ACA on immigrants of African descent is not well understood.

This dissertation research examined changes in access to health care, and utilization of preventive screenings for cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol among immigrants of African descent and U.S.-born African Americans before and after implementation of the ACA. This research integrated three studies to understand changes in access and utilization of health care using t-test for descriptive analyses and multivariable logistic regressions to assess any differences post-ACA.

Results showed lower odds of being uninsured (OR=0.52, p=0.000), delaying care (OR=0.72, p=0.000), and forgoing care (OR=0.71, p=0.000) post-ACA, for all groups. There were higher odds of having cholesterol (OR=1.33, p=0.000) and hypertension screenings (OR=1.32, p=0.000) after the ACA. Cancer screening results found slightly higher odds of obtaining a mammogram (OR=1.07, p=0.069) after the ACA, but lower odds of having a pap smear (OR=0.89, p=0.002) or colorectal cancer (OR=0.91, p=0.021) screening. Citizenship was a significant factor that influenced screening rates with non-citizen immigrants having the lowest screenings for all groups.