Health Policy, Care Coordination, and Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among US Adults Aged 18-64 with Serious Psychological Distress

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About one in five Americans have a mental health condition, and in any given year, 3-5% of the population experiences serious psychological distress (SPD). The goal of this dissertation is to examine the impact of health policy on racial and ethnic disparities among people experiencing SPD. The literature review in my dissertation details evidence on systemic racial and ethnic differences in access, quality, and care coordination. I develop a causal theory examining the reasons why the problem of SPD and racial and ethnic health disparities exist and specific evidence that illuminates how the problems come into existence. Using National Health Interview Survey data from 2011-2016, access to care among Non-Hispanic (NH) Whites, NH Blacks and Hispanics with SPD is examined. Findings suggest that in comparison to NH Whites, NH Blacks and Hispanics experienced greater gains in health care access following the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Next, using data from the 2015 and 2016 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, differences in racial and ethnic minorities being served by usual sources of care with care coordination services is examined. Findings suggest that in comparison with NH Whites with SPD, Hispanics with SPD had lower odds of being seen at a Patient Centered Medical Home (OR 0.55, (p <0.05)). Hispanics had higher odds (1.29 (p <0.03)) of being seen at a practice that used case managers; and Non-Hispanic Blacks with SPD had higher odds (3.25 (p< 0.001)) of being seen at a practice that used care managers. Given that people with diabetes experiences mental health conditions occur at about twice the rate of the general population, this dissertation examined the quality of care provided to people with doctor-diagnosed diabetes and SPD using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Findings suggest that between 2012 and 2016, racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) testing improved but were not eliminated. Results suggest that increased health insurance coverage alone does not eliminate health disparities, and work remains to be done to ensure that all Americans benefit from high-quality, evidence-based care.