California Governor Urged To Address Minority Health Disparities In Health Plan

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Members of the Legislative Black Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and the Latino Caucusin California last week held a town hall meeting to urge Gov. ArnoldSchwarzenegger (R) to address racial and ethnic health disparities inhis universal health plan, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 11/5).

Underthe governor's $14 billion proposal, all residents would be required toobtain health coverage, either individually or through their employers,and the state would subsidize coverage for individuals with annualincomes less than $25,525 and for families with annual incomes lessthan $51,625. Lower-income workers who do not qualify for the subsidiesbut whose health insurance costs exceed 5% of their family's incomewould receive a tax credit (Kaiser Health Policy Report, 10/10).

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The groups presented various CDCstatistics that "support their contention that the inequitabledistribution of resources has resulted in wide differences in theincidence of diseases and other adverse health conditions," accordingto the Bee. Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Calif.),chair-elect of the Legislative Black Caucus, said, "We want to delivera message to the governor (and) to the entirety of the Legislature thatany health care discussion, absent the issue of health caredisparities, will continue to undermine the quality of care and lifeexpectancy in communities of color." He added, "We wouldn't be heretonight, in fact, if we had been adequately heard."

A day afterthe town hall meeting, Assembly member Karen Bass (D) sent Kim Belshe,Schwarzenegger's secretary for health and human services, a studytitled "The State of Black California." Bass spearheaded the study,which was released by the Legislative Black Caucus. Belshe said that"far too many" of the state's 6.7 million uninsured residents areminorities, adding, "Getting an insurance card in everyone's pocket isan important piece of the problem." She said, "At the same time, we allknow that the insurance card isn't enough," which is whySchwarzenegger's plan puts "a high priority on prevention, wellness andhealth promotion."

Richard Williams -- a professor of medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles,who wrote the report, "Eliminating Health Disparities in America" --said, "The simple explanation for health care disparities is just plainracism. Whatever proposal comes out of the governor should speak tocompletely redesigning the way we do primary care medicine in thisenvironment."

Assembly member Mary Hayashi (D) said thatalthough Asians often are thought of as the "model minority," they havehealth issues that have been overlooked, including high suicide ratesamong elderly Asian women. Hayashi has introduced a bill (AB 330) that would require California to develop a report to assess the level of health disparities (Sacramento Bee, 11/5).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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