Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the great contributions made by the Latino community. It’s also a chance to discuss the difficulties this community continually faces and reflect on the opportunities we have to improve the lives and well-being of Latinos.
One of the greatest challenges Latinos confront is safeguarding their health. Latinos are disproportionately affected by chronic illnesses. For example, Latina women are nearly twice as likely to have cervical cancer than white women. And more than 1 in every 8 Latino adults suffers from diabetes—nearly twice the rate of whites with the disease.
What makes this picture starker is that Latinos have the highest rates of uninsurance(30.1%). They are also the most likely of any ethnic group to lack a usual source of care. These create significant barriers for Latinos to get the care they need when they need it.
But huge strides have been made towards achieving greater health equity and bettering the lives of Latinos. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Latinos are gaining access to essential care, and millions more stand to benefit as more provisions of the law are implemented.
The health care law has already expanded health coverage to nearly one million young Latinos who have gained insurance under their parents’ plans. An estimated 6.1 million Latinos with private insurance currently have access to expanded preventive services (such as mammograms and prostate screenings) without a co-pay or deductible. Additionally, 4.1 million elderly Latinos and Latinos with disabilities on Medicare also have access to an expanded list of no-cost preventive services, including one free annual wellness exam.
The health care law is also benefitting Latinos in many other ways. The law is increasing funding to community health centers across the country. These health centers provide vital care to many low-income Latinos, as 1 in 3 patients served at community health centers are Latino. The law is also increasing the number of Latino doctors in an effort to combat cultural and communication barriers in serving Latino patients.
Overall the health care law is a major milestone towards achieving health equity. As we celebrate Latinos this month, let us also rejoice the steps we are taking to ensure that everyone has equal access to health care.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each year from September 15 to October 15.