Racial Inequities...in sickness or in health

By Jeffrey Kroll JD
Partner, Kaveny + Kroll Trial Lawyers

Harvard University’s Law School Class of 2023 has 47% of its admittees as students of color. Equally encouraging, the United States has seen an upward trend in healthcare professionals being people of color. In 2015, people of color made up 11.5% of healthcare professionals.  Just five years later, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this number as 15.9%. Over the years, there has been a consistent upward swing in the percentage of people of color going into the legal and healthcare professions.  This is good news, right?  Or, does this not tell the whole story?

Let’s face it, we live in one of the worst times for racial inequities since the Civil War. I do not make that statement lightly. Black and brown people have faced far more than their fair share of oppression throughout history, being overlooked for basic needs and rights looked at far too closely when it comes to persecution. Racism and discrimination are deeply ingrained in a variety of structures in our society, i.e., economic, social and political.

Add a worldwide pandemic to this mix and the result is certainly a disaster of unmitigated proportion. While Covid-19 is rapidly approaching almost half a million American deaths, one of the most tragic statistics is that,particularly in urban areas, it has disproportionately claimed the lives of minorities. In Chicago alone, the percentage of deaths attributed to Covid-19 among black and brown populations is almost 80%, leaving a much smaller rate amongst Caucasian and Asian individuals. Consider that the percentage of the population of these highly affected minorities represents less than 40%, we can easily see that these numbers are horribly skewed.

Why?is always an effective place to start. Unfortunately, the answers to this remain similar to issues with other disease, accidents and life shortening situations. Doctors take an oath to treat all patients equally, however, not all patients are treated equally well.  I have seen first-hand that minority populations have less access to quality health care.In the case of Covid, these groups are far more likely to continue working outside the home, live in multi-generational homes, be relegated to using public transportation and when they do get sick, they are either uninsured or underinsured, ultimately severely impacting the quality of healthcare they receive.

Another factor that Kaveny + Kroll continues to see throughout their practice is the lesser degree of attention afforded to minority populations as well as those that are economically disadvantaged. “The color of your skin should have nothing to do with the healthcare you receive,” says Kroll. “But, time and again, we have seen from examples and studies that black and brown people are more likely to be ignored, overlooked or dismissed in sickness or in health.”

Now what? To fight this seemingly uphill battle, as a society we need the healthcare and insurance industries to recognize and comprehend these harmful attitudes and actions. Whether it is insidious racism, or a latent bias,stereotypes are rampant in both medicine and the insurance industry. We have work to do as a society, but let’s hope this new generation of attorneys and healthcare providers can help steer us in the right direction.

Kaveny + Kroll Trial Lawyers (www.kavenykroll.com)is a leading boutique medical malpractice and personal injury law firm in Chicago. They were established in 2019 by award-winning attorneys Elizabeth A.Kaveny and Jeffrey J. Kroll. The firm is driven by a commitment to justice and the need to fight for victim’s rights and financial recovery. At Kaveny +Kroll, we believe a valued law firm should take your case personally …because it is.