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Reform Addresses Health Disparities

In expanding coverage opportunities, healthcare reform has helped improve access to affordable health coverage for many communities of color. Rea Pañares, director of Minority Health Initiatives, and Sherice Perry, program manager of the Minority Health division at Families USA, offer thoughts about the provisions in reform that help address health disparities. Lisa Rene Holderby, director of Health Equity at Community Catalyst also offers her thoughts on strengthening community-based advocacy.

Rea Pañares, Families USA:

o Preventive Care
Health reform has increased investments in preventive care and public health, recognizing that many factors affect one’s health. This new provision seeks to help transform the system into one that improves health rather than one that simply treats disease. This will allow individuals, especially communities of color, to obtain preventive services, such as cancer screenings and vaccinations, without cost-sharing. In the same effort, transformation grants have been created to change communities into a more healthful environment for residents. These grants will be used to help create safe walking places, expand access to health food stores, and any other changes of the like.

o Medicaid Expansion
The Medicaid coverage expansion (effective 2014) will benefit millions of Americans, and estimates suggest that half of these individuals will be people of color. When the Exchange is implemented, subsidies will be given, in the form of tax credits, to individuals between 133-400% the FPL, easing some of the financial burden of health coverage. All of these provisions are expected improve health disparities for communities of color.

Sherice Perry, Families USA:

o Cultural Sensitivity
Due to limited documentation/analysis of data highlighting health disparities, the new reform law requires that data be collected and reported by race, ethnicity, sex, and primary language for individuals using federally supported health care and public health programs. Offices of Minority Health, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that have a creditable reporting history, have been made permanent under the reform legislation. To honor American Indians and Alaska Native’s legal right to health care, the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act was also reauthorized under reform. This new provision will help address many of the health needs within the community.

Lisa Rene Holderby, Community Catalyst:

o Community Advocacy
Community-based advocacy is an important in improving racial health disparities. Community Catalyst is a national non-profit organization dedicated to giving consumers a voice in health care reform, ensuring that health equity is integrated within the healthcare system. The organization has conducted a variety of regional meetings to help strengthen and create diverse relationships of others working in advocacy for health disparities. For more information about the organization and ideas for advocacy, please visit www.communitycatalyst.org.