Two Years Later, Affordable Care Act Stands as a Milestone for Improving the Health of Communities of Color
OAKLAND, Calif. — Leaders of California’s four major ethnic groups are celebrating the second anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which expanded health coverage for millions of Californians including low-income adults, children under the age of 26, and children and adults with pre-existing conditions. Many lowincome communities of color, who comprise close to three-quarters of the uninsured in CA, have already begun to benefit from the ACA.
“One in five adults now enrolled in California’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program (PCIP), a plan enacted under the ACA that offers health coverage to medically-uninsurable individuals, is a person of color,” said Ellen Wu, Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “The ACA extends coverage to close to 2.5 million more adults between the age of 19 and 26 who are now allowed to stay on their parent’s insurance plan.”
In addition, as of January, California has enrolled more than 250,000 individuals into Low-Income Health Programs (LIHPs), which are funded partially through the ACA. Many of these individuals will be eligible for Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, starting in 2014.
“The American Indian provisions of the ACA are making it possible for us to provide culturally appropriate services to our communities today,” said James Allen Crouch, Executive Director of the California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB). “We have also started reaching out to community members and key decision makers as part of CRIHB’s efforts to establish a LIHP program for our tribal communities and to educate them about the new sources of health care coverage,” he said.
“We have a lot to celebrate,” said B. Darcel Lee, Executive Director of the California Black Health Network. According to a report released by the Health and Human Services Agency in February 2012, the ACA has already helped nearly a million Californians receive expanded preventive benefits coverage in 2011. “Coverage for things like annual wellness exams and tobacco cessation programs is win-win – helping to bring down health care costs for our state while significantly reducing health disparities in our communities.”
“The ACA also makes significant improvements in the way race, ethnicity and primary language data are collected, disaggregated, and reported in health settings,” said Kathy Lim Ko, President and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are incredibly diverse and experience different health disparities that can be overlooked when they are grouped together. Enhancing data collection will have a dramatic impact on our ability to understand these disparities, develop culturally appropriate programs and target interventions to communities in greatest need.”
Monica Blanco-Etheridge, Executive Director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California is also excited about the future. “California is well on its way to establishing its Health Benefit Exchange which promises to put affordable health care coverage within reach of millions of Californians. The Health Benefit Exchange has the potential to dramatically expand coverage to California’s Latino community as over 500,000 Spanish speakers will be eligible to receive tax credits to purchase affordable coverage starting in January 2014,” added Blanco-Etheridge. Ethnic health leaders are working to ensure the state develops a culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach plan in order to maximize enrollment of communities of color into these new coverage options.
The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
The California Black Health Network (CBHN) advocates for policies and programs that will improve the health status of people of African descent in California.
The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) works to eliminate health disparities by advocating for public policies and sufficient resources to address the health needs of communities of color.
The California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB), Inc. is devoted to the needs and interests of the Indians of Rural California.
The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) is committed to initiating and advancing policies that will increase access to health services and build healthy Latino communities in California.