Last week, the federal government, for the first time, announced far-reaching regulations banning discrimination in health care. With this historic action, the government is prohibiting discrimination in the provision of health care services based on sex and gender identity. The new regulations announced by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also expand existing discrimination bans on the basis of disability or health status, race, national origin, age, or language spoken.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans can afford quality health insurance. However, having health insurance does not always equal having access to high-quality health care. This is especially true for people of color, who historically have had to grapple with racial and ethnic health disparities. Many people of color continue to face barriers to obtaining high-quality health care, and our nation’s health is closely tied to addressing these obstacles.
Last week, Rep. Lucile Roybal-Allard, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s health task force, introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2014. This legislation is the latest effort by the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congressional Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus to enact a comprehensive plan to eliminate the health disparities that plague communities of color and other groups. In every legislative session since 2003, lawmakers have introduced similar bills seeking to improve health outcomes for minority groups.
The success of the Affordable Care Act’s first enrollment period is clear: More than 8 million people have signed up for health insurance coverage through the health insurance marketplaces since last October. Among different racial and ethnic groups, however, increases in health insurance coverage varied widely. African and Asian Americans enrolled at relatively high rates, while Hispanic enrollment was lower. The results from the first enrollment period tell us that minority enrollment is on the upswing, but there is more work to do.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced $150 million in awards to support 236 new community health center sites across the country. These new centers will provide much needed health care to approximately 1.25 million Americans. This investment was made possible by the Community Health Center Fund, which was established by the Affordable Care Act.
The New and Enhanced Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards Will Help Eliminate Disparities in Health and Health Care
This April, the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services released the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care. With implementation of the Affordable Care Act in full swing and growing interest in improving the delivery of care and addressing health care costs, these standards will serve as a critical guide to developing policies and strategies that improve the quality of health care services and meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population.
Families USA and the National Health Law Program worked together to develop a checklist to help advocates ensure that their states implement health insurance exchanges that meet the needs of people with limited proficiency in English.