What does health reform mean to you?
For Kijoong Shin, an Asian American small business owner, health reform means being able to find affordable insurance for the first time in a while. For Anton Saleh, a young Filipino man living with cancer, it means peace of mind, that having a pre-existing condition won’t keep him from getting coverage. And for young adults like Kay Bounkeua, it means one less thing to worry about when they can stay on their parent’s insurance plans until 26.
These stories are just a glimpse of the real and unmet health needs of the one in seven [PDF | 740KB] Asian Americans and over 162,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders that are uninsured or underinsured. For these groups, their health needs and health status are just as diverse as the more than 50 countries they trace their heritage to and the more than 100 languages they speak.
One in 10 Asian Americans have asthma, diabetes or hypertension. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders suffer from diabetes three times more often than their white counterparts. The impact of Hepatitis B is staggering – over 50 percent of these chronic infections, the leading cause of liver cancer, occur in Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Cervical cancer incidence rates are among the highest in the U.S. for Laotian, Samoan, Vietnamese and Cambodian women.
The causes of these health disparities are multifactorial, influenced by economic status and ability to afford essential preventive care, environment, language barriers and many others. Knocking out these health disparities requires both better access to affordable health insurance and better investments, and this is where the Affordable Care Act comes in.
Programs like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s REACH initiative – funded by the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund – is helping community-based organizations develop science-backed initiatives to tackle obesity, diabetes and poor nutrition. Over 3 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have already accessed preventive care and cancer screenings at no cost. Starting this fall, more than one in 10 Asian American and one in eight Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander families will be eligible for financial assistance in the new Health Insurance Marketplace, helping to close the coverage gap and improve access to more dependable care.
These are some of the many reasons why we at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum are committed to making health reform a reality and why we are joining forces with national partners and community-based organizations in 15 states from Hawaii to Massachusetts and in between, working to educate and empower our communities about the ACA and what it means for them through translated materials and resources. Working together, we will make sure that every community realizes the promise of health reform now and for healthier generations to come.
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