Despite the progress our nation has made over the past 50 years, racial and ethnic minorities still lag behind the general population on many health fronts. Minorities are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy, more likely to suffer from serious illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer, and they are less likely to have access to quality health care.
The Affordable Care Act, in conjunction with the Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity that HHS released one year ago, addresses the needs of minority populations and other underserved groups, by bringing down health care costs, investing in prevention, and supporting improvements in primary care and Medicare. As a result of the health care law, we are making strides in giving every American regardless of race or ethnicity a fair shot at quality, affordable health coverage.
More than 1.2 million Latinos, Blacks, Asian-Americans and American Indian/Alaska Natives have gained coverage because the Affordable Care Act allows young adults without employer-provided insurance to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. Many Americans can now get such key preventive services as mammograms, cancer screenings and flu vaccinations with no co-pay or deductible, a significant barrier in the past to many in minority communities. Insurance companies cannot discriminate against children under 19 for pre-existing conditions, and in 2014, that protection will cover adults, as well.
The new health care law also prohibits lifetime dollar limits on how much care an insurance company will pay for and is phasing out annual dollar limits. Small businesses, the economic driver in many minority communities, can now get tax credits to help pay for insurance coverage for their employees as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The health care law also strengthens Medicare for our seniors with many free preventive services, including a free annual wellness visit with your doctor, a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name medications for those in the prescription drug “donut hole,” and strong anti-fraud measures.
The theme for National Minority Health Month this year is “Health Equity Can’t Wait. Act Now in Your CommUnity.” We are a nation of communities and we depend on each other. By recommitting ourselves to eliminating the serious and substantial health disparities faced by racial and ethnic minority Americans, we are investing in our entire nation’s physical and economic wellbeing.
To learn more about National Minority Health Month and what the Department of Health and Human Services is doing to reduce minority health disparities and achieve health equity, see http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/Actnow/