Latino Voices

Health Care Reform Debate: High Stakes For Latinos Amid Record Breaking Hearing

As the health care debate approaches, a record has fallen amid the constant political bickering and impending oral arguments for and against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - otherwise known as "Obamacare" - to be heard March 26 to 28, 2012.

No less than 136 amicus briefs (a legal opinion in the form of a brief) were filed for the debate, a record-shattering number of documents; “a stack about 2 feet high…or two full carts.” Or a "third more amicus briefs than were submitted in the previous Supreme Court amicus record-holder..."

But the breaking of this record isn't what's important to Latinos. Its the content of these briefs that matter.

According to an amicus brief jointly filed by the Leadership Conference, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, Latinos could be affected more severely than other groups if the requirement that every American must have health insurance by 2014 (dubbed "The minimum coverage provision") is found unconstitutional by the court.

While maintaining that “The minimum coverage provision enhances the ability of individuals to participate in the economic, social, and civic life of our nation, thereby advancing equal opportunity and personal liberty,” the document argues that “Although more than half of all uninsured persons are non-Hispanic whites,“ racial minorities are “much more likely to be uninsured than whites… and Latinos are the most likely to be uninsured, followed by African Americans.”

According to a 2009 Gallup poll, almost 42% of Latinos lacked health insurance, compared with a national average of 16% and 11.6% for non-Latino whites.

In a fact-sheet released this week titled "The Affordable Care Act Promotes Equal Opportunity For Latinos", the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights emphasizes among other findings that “Whereas 71 percent of working-age whites had health insurance through their workplace in 2005, only one-third of working-age Hispanics had employer-sponsored coverage,” based on a study by the Joint Center For Political And Economic Studies.

Relying on several studies, the fact-sheet also mentions that:

* Half of Hispanics do not have a regular doctor even when insured, compared with only one-fifth of whites, and almost half of low-income Hispanics lack a usual source of care.

* Hispanics have poorer quality of care than non-Hispanic whites for about 40 percent of quality measures, including not receiving screening for cancer or cardiovascular risk factors, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2004 National Healthcare Disparities Report.

* Approximately three times more uninsured Hispanic Americans went without a doctor visit in the past year (50 percent) than did Hispanic Americans enrolled in Medicaid (14 percent), and

* People with limited English proficiency are less likely to have a regular source of primary care and receive preventive care.

“When you are not insured, unexpected medical expenses can mean lost wages, bankruptcy, and unemployment. And Latinos are also likely to work at jobs without health insurance,” said Scott Simpson, Press Secretary of The Leadership Conference, to The Huffington Post.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a Washington D.C. based coalition comprised of more than 200 organizations, representing “women, latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, people with disabilities, and seniors among others”, said Simpson.

The Supreme Court is intending to publish its decision on the health care reforms by the end of June, 2012.

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