Asian American Civil Rights Organization To Address Health Care Statewide
The Asian Pacific American Legal Center announced the launch of a Health Access Project Tuesday morning to
“Because it [the Affordable Care Act] has many different features, many of which are very positive, [it] may not be utilized by the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community, [and] that would be a major tragedy,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of the Center.
There are over 17.3 million Asian Americans living in the United States, which makes up 6 percent of the country’s population, according to the 2010 Census. California has about 5.6 million Asian Americans, the highest of any state.
One in six Asian American adults in the country doesn’t have health insurance , and one in 10 children are uninsured, according to Kwoh. That means 2.3 million Asian Americans and 162,000 Pacific Islanders are uninsured.
President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010, bringing health care reforms to extend access to affordable health coverage to millions of Americans.
The Affordable Care Act requires each state to create a health insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses can buy health insurance. California is the first state to pass legislation and create the California Health Benefit Exchange, which is expected to launch in January 2014.
Becky Cheng, representative of Congresswoman Chu, identified the benefits of the health care reform to Asian American community.
“Hepatitis B is particularly hard-hitting in the Asian American community,” she said. “It accounted for two thirds of chronic Hepatitis B cases.”
Due to little education and access to screening, the infected individuals are not aware of their condition until they develop symptoms of liver cancer or liver disease, according to Cheng. The affordable health care will help people pre-discover this type of chronic disease through access to free preventive services.
This plan will have a cap on what insurance companies can require beneficiaries to pay in out-of-pocket expenses.
“If growth of insurance premium were to slow to one percentage point below the projected national growth rate, the cost of family coverage would drop an average of $995 annually by 2015,” said Cheng.
She also said the health care act has a stronger focus on minority health by prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to all individuals.
“The Act will end discrimination that charges beneficiaries more if they’re sick and limit the amount an insurance company can increase an individual’s premium simply due to their age, gender, race or ethnicity,” she said.
Doreena Wong, director of the Health Access Project, said issues of the immigration status and limited English-speaking skills mainly contribute to the health disparity of the Asian American community.
“We’re lucky in California because we have a state-funded program that allows legal immigrants here to get access to Medi-Cal, our state Medicaid program. But in many states there is a five-year bar for any legal immigrants who come in after August 22, 1996,” she said.
She also said many from mixed-immigration-status families are often confused about what medical program their family members are eligible for.
In the Asian American community, 70 percent speak a language other than English, 32 percent of whom have limited English proficiency, according to Wong.
“What happens to these limited English speaking patients when they go to the doctor? It’s no surprise they have communication problems with their doctor,” she said.
The Center will work with more than 20 non-profit organizations from California to inform community members and small businesses about the health care law through workshops and trainings. The first workshop is scheduled to begin in May.
This project will prepare and distribute educational materials in at least seven languages and reach to public officials and policy-makers about the specific needs of Asian American community.