TRENTON – Last week, the NJ Health Care for America Now Campaign released a report showing how communities of color are adversely affected by our nation’s broken health care system and emphasized the need for comprehensive health care reform that corrects this inequality and injustice.
“Unequal Lives: Health Care Discrimination Harms Communities of Color in New Jersey” explains how the nation’s more than 103 million people of color suffer disproportionately in our health care system.
In New Jersey:
• The infant death rate for whites is 3.7 per 1,000 live births, compared with 11.9 for African Americans.
• Life expectancy for African Americans is 6 to 10 years shorter than that of whites.
• About 40 percent of Latinos and 21 percent of African Americans are uninsured, compared with 11 percent of whites.
• 18.1 percent of African American adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, more than double the rate for whites.
“We must provide quality, affordable health care to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, or income,” said James Woodson, central Jersey organizer for New Jersey Citizen Action. “As we build on what works in our current health care system and fix what doesn’t, we need to address a long history of discrimination in medical treatment and reorient the way doctors, hospitals, drug makers, medical device makers, insurance companies, and government programs provide care.”
“The much lower rates of health insurance and poorer health outcomes for African-Americans and Latinos compared to whites in the wealthiest state in the nation should be an embarrassment to all of us, and a call to action,” said Raymond Castro, senior policy advisor for NJ Policy Perspective.
Legislation under consideration in Congress right now would offer one of the best opportunities since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 to erase persistent health disparities. The House health reform bill would strengthen and expand programs promoting health workforce diversity, identify key health and health care disparities in addressing prevention and wellness, require insurers to contract with essential community providers, provide adequate grant funding for delivery of preventive health services in underserved communities, and designate a new Assistant Secretary for Health Information whose job it would be to measure, study, and reduce health and health care disparities.
“Unequal Lives” also offers the Health Care for America Now Campaign’s recommendations to erase racial and ethnic health care disparities, including the call for an affordable benefit package that provides a defined, comprehensive set of age- and gender-appropriate services that promote health in a linguistically and culturally competent manner.
• Coverage should be backed by adequate reimbursement rates and effective performance incentives that promote provider participation, change the inefficient behavior of doctors and hospitals, and promote improved health for people of color.
• Substantial improvements in health and life expectancy will be achieved by addressing the social determinants of health, including a clean environment, occupational safety, safe neighborhoods and access to nutritious food.
• The nation must address chronic shortages of health professionals in communities of color and marginalized populations.
• Congress should implement mechanisms to support safety-net institutions and drive quality-improvement initiatives in all health care settings.
• Stakeholders and the public should be given good data by insurers and health care providers on race, ethnicity and ethnic sub-population, socioeconomic position, primary language, age, gender, and gender identity.
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