KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Minorities Support Reform Ad Campaign, Although Immigrants May Get Little Relief From Legislation

Analysts suggest that health reform legislation may do little to help Hispanics -- many of whom could remain uninsured due to immigration restrictions and costs -- as well as other immigrants. Meanwhile, African-American and Hispanic groups unite with an advertising campaign to push for health care reform.

The Orlando Sentinel reports: "As the health-care reform debate takes shape in Congress, advocates worry that many Hispanics -- who have the highest rate of uninsured of all ethnic and racial groups -- could still be left without needed medical care. Some think that out-of-pocket expenses would keep many Hispanics from buying insurance. For others, their immigration status could affect whether they get any kind of coverage."

The Sentinel adds, "While the Senate Finance Committee has defeated amendments that would have restricted access to legal immigrants, pending proposals would leave out millions of others who are in the country illegally, completely excluding them from benefits. ... Advocates on all sides agree that illegal immigrants excluded from health benefits will end up using public resources through emergency rooms and government-funded clinics. ... Others think that keeping illegal immigrants out of health benefits would also affect legal residents and U.S. citizens in mixed households, who might just opt out of the system altogether" (Ramos, 10/5). 

Meanwhile, The Hill finds that many legal immigrants will not see immediate help from reform: "Millions of uninsured legal immigrants will remain without coverage unless lawmakers adjust longstanding Medicaid rules that delay them from subscribing to the program, a new report finds. Without those changes, the report's authors add, legal immigrants could continue contributing to the rising costs of healthcare across the country. Roughly 3.4 million legal immigrants are currently without health insurance, a sizable portion of whom are between 150 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) indicates in its latest study, released Monday."

Many poor legal immigrants cannot qualify for Medicaid because the government restricts bars them "from subscribing for at least five years, (the authors of the report) explained. That delay, which is preserved in every healthcare reform bill Congress is considering, means a number of immigrants could still head to their emergency rooms for primary care or otherwise lack access to preventive medicine - two key points in the healthcare debate that proponents stress would drive down costs for all, according to the report" (Romm, 10/5).

Various newspapers have articles on a new minority health care ad campaign organized by the Center for Community Change, the NAACP, National Council of La Raza and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. McClatchy reports: "Black and Latino groups said Monday that they'd begin an ad campaign aimed at urging swing state lawmakers in Congress to back overhauling health care. ... The organizers want to remind Democratic lawmakers who are facing tough midterm elections next year that the outcome of the health care debate will be a litmus test for how African-Americans and Hispanics vote. The groups have joined forces for an ad buy of $250,000 to $500,000 that will appear on minority-oriented cable networks such as Black Entertainment Television and Univision in Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas and in African-American and Hispanic newspapers in those states."

The health care debate could have serious ramifications for minorities. "Of the nonelderly population -- the elderly qualify for Medicare -- about 20.6 percent of African-Americans and 32.2 percent of Latinos had no health insurance coverage, compared with 12.7 percent of whites, according to an analysis of 2008 census data by the Kaiser Family Foundation. A Pew Research Center poll Sept. 10-15 found that two-thirds of blacks said they generally favored the health care proposals that were before Congress, compared with 37 percent of whites. Whether the black and Latino communities are ready to be mobilized is unclear, however" (Lightman and Douglas, 10/5).

The Boston Globe/Associated Press reports: "The ads feature a recognizable civil rights symbol -- a public bus -- to send the group's message that 'there needs to be room for all of us on the bus'" (10/5).

CQ reports: "The groups said four elements are essential to a final overhaul package: a public option to compete with private insurance companies, coverage of all U.S. residents regardless of pre-existing conditions or employment status, comprehensive and affordable coverage, and 'the highest quality care for everyone.' The public option is critical because it would provide affordable coverage in minority communities, the groups said" (Reichard, 10/5).

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