Growing Population, Growing Concerns: Minority Healthcare Must Take Precedence

Latinos have ascended to the largest minority population in the United States, comprising almost 16% of the total population in the country. With this unprecedented number, we have yet to fully discern the full range and impact of the challenges our communities face. It is clear, however, that health care is an often devastating challenge confronting millions of Hispanics.

National Minority Health Month is this month, and for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), it renews the need for us to stress the gross health care inequalities faced by Latino and other minority populations. Hispanics compose a significant portion of the nation's workforce; failure to remedy our current health care system ensures a precarious, uncertain future for our country.

Combined with other issues such as poverty and lack of access to educational opportunities, too many children are stuck in a very hard place. Their parents or parent might be working several part-time jobs, or have other factors that are a roadblock to their financial security.

Currently, about 1 out of 3 Hispanics are uninsured - a disheartening statistic reflecting an inability to address medical emergencies that leaves families vulnerable. They must rely on public health care services, like Medicare and Medicaid, to provide for their needs. Approximately 40% of Hispanic children are beneficiaries of such public services.

However, the vacuous rhetoric employed by Republicans and the current administration against the expansion of programs like SCHIP demonstrates the difficulties that lie ahead. In their continual diatribe against immigrants, Republicans have fervently lobbied against any effort focused on extending assistance to these needy families. In turn, they have relegated the issue of health to mere politics, and legal immigrant children paid the price for that last year in SCHIP negotiations.

We believe that this strident, stubborn opposition to helping deserving families in need accomplishes nothing but exacerbating the disparities within the health care system.

The CHC recognizes the relevance of this issue to Hispanics, and has been active in spearheading legislation to recalibrate the health care system. With the help of the TriCaucus (the coalition of the CHC, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus), Rep. Hilda Solis (CA-32), Chair of the CHC Health and the Environment Task Force, has introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act, H.R. 3014.

The League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the oldest Hispanic Organization in the United States, has praised this piece of legislation, as it "underscores the major problems concerning the current national health disparities crises and lack of healthcare services in under-served communities."

Latino children are less likely to receive adequate medical care, such as routine examinations and vaccinations. Latinos and African-Americans comprise 60% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the country. It is evident that priority must be given to diminishing these health disparities. If we have any chance of fixing health care for our community as a whole, action must be taken now.

In the spirit of National Minority Health month, we at the CHC will continue to strive and fight for equitable, quality health care. It is a commitment we have held for many years, and a commitment that will continue.

We currently live in a society where people of color face dangerous and unjust inequalities -- in health care and beyond. It is a remarkably devastating reality that should not be tolerated.