How health systems could build wealth in minority communities – Becker’s Hospital Review

Health systems play an important role in helping Black communities build wealth, according to a Sept. 1 analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Historical and present-day racial discrimination and exclusion, attributable to myriad government and institutional policies and practices, shore up the racial wealth gap, according to the analysis. However, health systems could address the racial wealth gap, thereby reducing the racial health gap by using a combination of three strategies: reducing expenses, maximizing income and decreasing debt while increasing savings. 

While reducing expenses, health systems can facilitate patient enrollment in public benefits programs, which will allow families to provide for basic needs. This is a prerequisite for increasing individual savings and building wealth. 

Health systems are also postured to aid individuals in maximizing their income by offering free tax-preparation services. Furthermore, health systems must provide all healthcare workers with a living wage. 

The analysis suggests that health systems partner with external organizations to assist patients and employees with financial counseling to decrease debt and increase savings.  

“Health systems and health policymakers could commit to avoiding anticompetitive behaviors that may increase health care costs and thereby reduce wages and community economic well-being,” the analysis says. “Similarly, health systems could commit to ceasing activities that can directly reduce individual economic security, including the imposition of medical debt and the use of aggressive bill-collecting practices.”