An experienced doctor represents more than just years in the field. They are the product of lessons learned and crises navigated, and they offer not just treatment, but informed, battle-tested guidance when it matters most.

But according to research published last month in JAMA Network Open, senior physicians may avoid seeing Black folks, other people of color, and Medicaid-insured patients. Instead, these groups are more likely to be assigned to less-experienced medical professionals.

“It’s a widely known ‘secret’ that in some practices, the older doctors push patients with lower-paying insurance, and by extension patients of minority races to the more junior doctors in their clinic,” Michael Barnett, associate professor of health policy and management at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study said in a statement. 

However, “this is rarely discussed openly,” Barnett said. “Our study finds evidence to back up this hidden practice, which raises concerns of a two-tiered system by physician seniority that promotes racial and economic segregation.”

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