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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

National Minority Health Month: April Health Equity Update

April is National Minority Health Month and this year’s theme, accelerating health equity, reminds us that the quickening pace of change in the health arena provides strategic opportunities to narrow the disparities gaps between people of color and our white friends and neighbors. This month we celebrate the huge coverage gains among immigrants, several state initiatives to remove barriers to immigrant coverage, and Georgia’s big step toward making health insurance provider directories accurate and useful.

New analysis shows immigrants big winners under the Affordable Care Act  

Last week, the New York Times published an analysis of census data comparing the effect of the ACA on different groups following the first year of marketplace open enrollment. The analysis revealed that immigrants saw the “sharpest rise in coverage rates,” including more than a million non-citizen legal residents. Considering how many undocumented immigrants are excluded from ACA coverage options, this is an impressive accomplishment.

Not surprisingly, other big winners according to this analysis were racial and ethnic minorities, with Hispanics leading the way. Health insurance rates also jumped for high school graduates and lower income people.  

Nevertheless, even as we celebrate this enormous success, health care advocates and enrollment assisters can’t afford to rest on our laurels. We need to make sure that the newly insured understand how to take advantage of their benefits as well as make plans to continue to shrink minority coverage disparities in the next enrollment period.  

Utah moves closer to opening Medicaid and CHIP to all lawfully present kids

Earlier last month, the Utah legislature voted to eliminate the five-year waiting period for lawfully residing immigrant children to be eligible for Medicaid and CHIP. Five years is a long time to wait for health care in the life of a child, and Utah’s progress on this issue is especially important considering that the state has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

Covered California pushes allowing the undocumented to buy plans on the marketplace 

Earlier this month, California’s health insurance marketplace, Covered California, “formally recommended” that the state ask the federal government to let undocumented immigrants buy insurance through the marketplace with their own money. 

Currently, undocumented immigrants are banned from buying health insurance in any ACA marketplace in any state and must instead go directly to a broker or health plan. Given this federal restriction, California would have to request what’s known as a Section 1332 “state innovation” waiver from CMS to implement this. It is now up to the state legislature to pass a bill authorizing the waiver.  

New Georgia law requires health insurers to maintain accurate provider directories

On Tuesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law legislation that requires insurers to maintain accurate provider directories. This new requirement will make it easier for consumers to obtain the care they need through their insurance plans in a timely manner, and reduce the risk that they will end up with an unexpected bill from a provider that wasn’t really in the plan’s network.

One important win that advances health equity in the law is its requirement that these directories be accessible to people with limited-English proficiency. Months of advocacy by Georgians for Healthy Future led to this important victory for consumers, and Families USA was proud to partner with them in their efforts. For more on this new law and similar efforts in other states, watch our video and read our blog.

Top Health Equity Reads and Resources

David Williams

 Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Health Equity Spotlight: National thought leaders in the area of health equity, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and David Williams, of Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, published Being Black Is Bad for Your Health in U.S. News and World Report.  

This opinion piece provides an excellent overview of the toll racial and ethnic health disparities take on our communities and makes a compelling case for the need to advance comprehensive, multi-sector efforts to advance health equity.

With New Hospital Guide, CMS Recognizes Minority Communities' Barriers to Health, Sinsi Hernández-Cancio & Neah Morton, Families USA.

Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites, Hoffman, et. al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (News story here)

Uninsurance Among Children, 1997-2015: Long-Term Trends and Recent Patterns, Gates, et. al., National Urban Institute 

A Snapshot of Behavioral Health Issues for Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Boys and Men: Jumpstarting an Overdue Conversation, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

How Health Divides the North and South in the U.S., Dr. David Blumenthal, The Commonwealth Fund 

Implementing New York's DSRIP Program: Implications for Medicaid Payment and Delivery System Reform, Bachrach, et. Al., The Commonwealth Fund

5 Things to Know About Communities of Color and Environmental Justice,  Jasmine Bell, Center for American Progress

Upcoming Health Equity Events

National Rural Health Association Health Equity Conference
National Rural Health Association, Minneapolis, MN
May 10, 2016

State of Enrollment 2016 National Conference
Enroll America Washington, D.C.
May 11-13, 2016

2016 NCUIH Annual Leadership Conference
Alpine, CA, May 12-13, 2016

AA&NHPI Health Center Summit
Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, (AAPCHO)
Atlanta, GA, May 24, 2016 

Our Lives Matter Our Votes Count, NAACP Annual Convention
Cincinnati, OH, July 16-20, 2016

NCLR 2016 Annual Conference
Orlando, FL, July 23-26, 2016

Save Our Cities, 2016 National Urban League Conference
Baltimore, MD, August 3-6, 2016