Blacks, Latinos and other folks of color make up more than half of the nation’s uninsured population. And many have framed the fight for affordable care as being a battle for racial equality precisely because African Americans and Latinos have historically had limited access to quality care due to institutional barriers. Today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act will have a substantial effect on Latinos and Blacks. Let’s take a look at what Obamacare does for these Americans:
1. More Blacks and Latinos will gain health coverage: A recent study shows that the Affordable Care Act could cut the eight-percentage-point Black-White differential in uninsured rates in half. The nineteen-percentage-point Hispanic-White differential in uninsured rates could be reduced by slightly less than a quarter. The extent that Black and Latino communities will have a lower rate of uninsured members will largely depend on how people are being informed about enrollment in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the soon to be created health insurance exchanges. In the Latino community, addressing language barriers will be key.
2. More Black and Latino Doctors and Nurses: Minority primary care providers are desperately needed in Black and Latino communities. The young people in these communities are often deterred from pursuing medical careers because of the high cost of higher education. The Affordable Care Act provides resources to increase the number of Black and Latino medical professionals working in the field; they will be needed more than ever as more community members gain access to care.
3. Improved Health for the Ladies: All women will have access to prescription birth control without co-pays. Also, women will have access to preventative health screening with the Affordable Care Act. Currently, breast cancer claims the lives of up to five African American women per day, and in the Latina community, breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers and tends to be diagnosed later. With expanded access to preventative screenings, these kinds of illnesses will be caught and treated earlier.
4. Coverage for Black and Latino Young Adults is Protected: Because parents can now keep their children up to age 26 on their health insurance plans, more young people in Black and Latino communities will be covered. This is especially important in the current economic climate where young people are having a difficult time in the job market.
The Congressional Black Caucus indicated that 410,000 African American young adults gained coverage that they would not normally have due to the Affordable Care Act. Charles Gonzalez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said that nearly 750,000 young Latinos have been able to get coverage through their parents’ health plans.
5. More Health Centers in Black and Latino Communities: In 2010, almost 26 percent of the patients served by community health centers were Black. And in 2009, about 35 percent of the patients served by community health centers were Latino. The Affordable Care Act boosts funding for community health centers in medically underserved communities, so there will be more renovations and construction of these centers throughout the country.