After Three Years, Implementation of Affordable Care Act Enters Final Stages
OAKLAND, Calif. – Today, ethnic health leaders in California celebrated the 3-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it has improved the health of communities of color. The anniversary comes at a time when the state is entering the final stages of implementing the law, which will result in over 4 million Californians, two-thirds of whom come from communities of color, gaining access to affordable coverage through the expansion of MediCal and the establishment of the state’s Health Benefit Exchange, Covered California. While taking time to celebrate, the state’s ethnic health leaders also acknowledged that now is a critical time for advocates to make sure the law achieves its full potential.
“The ACA is the greatest legislative victory for health in a generation,” said Ellen Wu, Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “Thanks to the ACA, access to health coverage and basic services has increased for communities of color. But we still have a lot of work to do to ensure millions more Californians, particularly underserved communities, receive the care they need in 2014 and beyond.”
To date, the ACA has provided over $30 million for school-based health centers in California, which provide much needed care to the state’s youth, particularly in underserved areas. “African American children in California have higher rates of asthma, a chronic condition that can be fatal without careful treatment,” said B. Darcel Lee, Executive Director of the California Black Health Network. “The ability to be seen by a health practitioner in a school setting is a win-win for these children who might not see a doctor otherwise.”
Additionally, over 500,000 Californians, a majority from communities of color, are currently enrolled in local Low-Income Health Programs, through which they can receive preventive care and other basic health care services. “The ability to enroll these individuals into health coverage now will make it much easier to connect many of our community members to more comprehensive coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California in 2014,” said Genoveva Islas, Board Chairperson from the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “However, it is our deeply held belief that reform is insufficient until coverage is available to all California residents.”
As California moves closer to 2014, the state is on a rapid pace to implement key provisions of the health reform law, including the establishment ofCovered California, a health insurance marketplace where individuals can use federal tax credits to purchase private health insurance. “We were pleased to see that Covered California recently launched its new website with links to materials in 13 different languages,” said Kathy Ko Chin, President and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “It is important to invest in outreach and education to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who will account for at least 14% of those eligible for tax credits to purchase affordable coverage in Covered California.”
Despite California’s progress in implementing the new law, the state still has a long way to go to realize the vision of health care reform. In January, Governor Jerry Brown called a legislative special session to address ACA implementation. Two bills in the special session, ABx1 1 (J. Perez) and SBx1 1 (Hernandez), would expand Medi-Cal to more than 1.4 million Californians, a majority from communities of color. The bills will also streamline enrollment into the program by making it easier for people to apply for and keep their coverage.
“California has been leading the way in the implementation of the ACA,” said James Allen Crouch, Executive Director of the California Rural Indian Health Board. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and legislative leaders to quickly expand and simplify Medi-Cal. Our communities have been left out of the health care system for too long.”
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.