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Health Equity Forum: Ethnic Partner Spotlight – March 2015

CPEHN's Ethnic Partner Organizations Reflect on the ACA's 5th Anniversary

APIAHF on Five Years of Progress under Health Reform 

By Kathy Ko Chin, President & CEO, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) celebrated the five-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by filing a supportive amicus brief in the King v. Burwell Supreme Court case to defend the law just as its success is becoming more evident. APIAHF has strongly supported the ACA since the beginning, and has worked at the local, state, and national levels to ensure the law is protected and fulfilled. APIAHF’s amicus brief, co-authored by Action for Health Justice (AHJ) partners, brought the personal stories of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs) to the nation’s highest court and crystalized what is at stake in King. These communities have greatly benefited from the ACA as about 1.9 million AAs and NHPIs were uninsured and eligible for health insurance at the beginning of the first open enrollment period.

As a member organization of AHJ, APIAHF has worked with the more than 70 partner organizations across the country to outreach, educate, and enroll people in health insurance. During the first open enrollment period, AHJ partners reached more than 600,000 AAs and NHPIs nationwide, and provided help in 41 languages across 22 states, including developing an extensive translated glossary of commonly used health care phrases in 11 languages. On the fifth anniversary of the ACA, APIAHF and AHJ’s work speaks to the impact of the law and just how far AA and NHPI communities still have to come to achieve health equity.


What the Affordable Care Act has Meant to the African American Community Over the Past 5 Years. 

By B. Darcel Lee, President & CEO, California Black Health Network

In 2013, a woman in San Francisco came up to me, her eyes glistening with fresh tears. She hugged me around my waist because she was so small in stature, and she kept saying, “Thank you! Thank you!” She went on to tell me that she was so grateful for a presentation I had just given on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because she now understood that she was eligible for coverage and so was her mother. She had been taking care of her mom for years. Each of them suffers from diabetes and other chronic diseases. She said they were practically destitute because they had no insurance. She made too much to qualify for Medi-Cal, and so much of the cost of their care was coming out of her pocket. She told me, “We now have a new lease on life!” 

My cousin’s son was able to reduce his insurance premiums from $300 per month to approximately $125. My girlfriend’s 23 year-old daughter can now be covered on her parents insurance. A man with multiple sclerosis in San Diego told me he can now get coverage and that he is no longer contemplating suicide because he has a reason to live. And a couple in Monterey told me that they believe they can salvage their small business because the cost of their own health care has been reduced by so much, that they feel they can now afford to remain self-employed. 

The Affordable Care Act has meant all this and more to thousands of African Americans across California. There are many more stories just like these and with each story there is a life that has been changed or impacted for the better. More than 22,000 African Americans have been covered throughout the state and many more are in the process. The ACA has meant freedom for some; relief for others; security for many; and even a boost in self-esteem and self-confidence for so many more. The realization that a pre-existing condition will not keep one from receiving the care so desperately needed or the fact that there is an affordable plan that will not impact the choice between critically needed care and healthy foods on their table has made a difference to African American – and all American – lives. 

Yes, the Affordable Care Act is working. It may have its “kinks” and need its adjustments – we grant that. But, through the work that CBHN has been involved in over the past five years, we can see that lives are changing for the better, California is changing for the better, and we are building healthy families in healthy communities across this state!


ACA Offers Coverage Options for California’s Native Population

By Amanda Wilbur, Health Policy Analyst, California Rural Indian Health Board

Five years ago today, the California Rural Indian Health Board’s (CRIHB) then-Executive Director, James Allen Crouch, called the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “a momentous occasion” that would help “modernize Indian health services.” The American Indian provisions of the ACA have made it possible for us to provide culturally appropriate services to our communities today. Over the past five years, CRIHB has been reaching out to community members in our tribal communities to educate them about the new sources of health care coverage.

The ACA continues to have an impact in California’s Native communities. Although open enrollment in Covered California ended on February 15th, members of federally recognized tribes can enroll year-round. American Indians and Alaska Natives who are not enrolled in a tribe should have enrolled during the open enrollment period.  If they did not, then they will need to enroll during the next open enrollment period. Tribal health programs, Covered California, and the Indian Health Service are targeting the next several months for tribal activity education and outreach events. The California Rural Indian Health Board is also planning a series of regional trainings in northern, central and southern California. Information about the trainings will be distributed to Indian communities and Indian clinics well in advance of the meetings. 

The ACA ensures that federally recognized tribal members in California have special benefits when they enroll, including no cost-sharing or deductibles under certain income limits or when referred by a tribal health program. The law also enables tribal health programs to stretch limited contract health service/purchased-referred care funding to cover more healthcare needs for their patients.

Members of federally recognized tribes may also change their health plans up to once a month. Because of the staffing and community events that will be happening related to open enrollment, it’s a great time for many individuals with questions about coverage to enroll.

As more people enroll in coverage through the ACA, more resources and revenue streams are freed up to alleviate some of the financial burden on Indian Health Services clinics. Strengthening these trusted sources of care will be a great legacy for the ACA among California’s native population and prove that five years ago today really was a momentous occasion.
 
If you have questions about the ACA, please email Amanda Wilbur at amanda.wilbur@crihb.org.


The Affordable Care Act at 5 years: We’ve Only Just Begun…

By Xavier Morales, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California

Today’s five-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or what we at the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) like to call Obamacare, has us excited about how we have finally started down the road towards health for all. We are especially excited that Genoveva Islas, LCHC’s Board Chair, has been appointed to the Covered California Board of Directors — the entity that is tasked with operationalizing Obamacare in California.  

For Latinos, given all the progress we have made enrolling our community members, we recognize that there is still a long way to go before we can claim victory. Our partners at Covered California have been working hard to make their process work for Latinos. But issues such as immigration status, especially for mixed-status families, are shining a light on the need for ensuring Administrative Relief is granted, as well as the necessity of a longer term comprehensive immigration reform. In California, to continue to advance towards health for all communities, including immigrants, LCHC and our partners are working to support SB 4, the Health for All Act.  

On this five year anniversary of the signing of Obamacare, we are celebrating with all of our partners, however, we do so with the recognition that there we have much more work to do before we finish the job.