Health Equity – but for whom? 9/13-9/19

21 Sep

congressional tri-caucus logoFeatured article: Tri-Caucus Members Introduce the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011, September 15, 2011

Last week, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2011 to complement the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The goal is to eliminate racial and health disparities. Among the things that the legislation seeks to improve are: data collection and reporting, culturally and linguistically appropriate health care; health workforce diversity, improvement of health outcomes fro women, children and families; mental health and more.

Several organizations have expressed their support of the Act including the American Diabetes Association, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. It is a clear indication that some member in Congrees recognize that racial and ethnic health disparities persist and that they have a responsibility to do something about it.

The only question is: Does the HEAA, as proposed, do anything about caring for our immigrants – regardless of their documentation? Given the silence on the issue, I assume that it omits this group, especially after reading NCLR’s statement that includes a note on how the HEAA would affect immigrants: “the HEAA would eliminate access barriers for immigrant families, such as the removal of the federal five-year waiting period to health and nutrition programs currently faced by legal immigrants.” Key word here is legal. But what about undocumented families who also live in the US and are just as deserving as anyone in the country? Will they still be left in the shadows?

If we are serious about eliminating racial and ethnic inequities in health, then the inclusion of immigrants, regardless of papers, should be a no-brainer. Undocumented immigrants face some of the worst health inequities precisely because they are often excluded and barred from basic services. And the impact goes far beyond specific individuals. After all, many families are mixed status: the Pew Hispanic Center reports that almost 40% of undocumented individuals have children who are US citizens, and still others may also have partners or significant loved ones who have papers. It is a sad state of affairs that undocumented immigrants are often just left out of our health legislation, not even recognized, as if people are afraid to broach the subject. This is a real problem because it perpetuates the silence and continues to push our most marginalized groups further into the shadows and generates health and social inequities. If the Health Equity and Accountability Act excludes undocumented immigrants, then the sponsors of the bill should reconsider including this group. It is the equitable action to take.

Related News:

State poised to restrict use of E-Verify database, California Watch, 09/1611
To counter the Legal Workforce Act that would mandate employers to use the E-verify system, the Employment Acceleration Act in California would prevent state and local governments from requiring employers to use it. The bill currently awaits Governor Brown’s approval.

Jose Antonio Vargas & Immigration Activists Launch DREAM Act Initiative, Latin America News Dispatch, 09/16/11
Award winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, along with several faith-based immigration activists organize to pass the DREAM Act in New York in an intiative called “New York State Congregations in Solidarity with DREAMers.”

Secure Communities Task Force Releases Recommendations, Huffington Post, 09/16/11
Five members of the task force resigned because they felt the recommendations fell short.
Some of the recommendations include: start over, “reintroduce” SCOMM in areas that did not approve of it, and exempt undocumented immigrants with minor traffic offenses from the program.

The 10 Numbers You Need to Know About E-Verify, Center for American Progress, 09/19/11
The Legal Workforce Act of 2011 would make E-verify mandatory for all employers across the country. In this article, the Center for American Progress provides important information that exposes the negative impact that this legislation would have on our society. For example, E-Verify will cost the federal government $17.3 billion over ten years.

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